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McCaskill Puts Clamps on Orioles Again : Angels Win Ninth Game in Last 10, 5-2; the Countdown Begins

September 04, 1986|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

Gene Mauch and his Angels know their baseball history, so they bite their tongues despite every passing victory and all the mounting evidence.

Yes, the race in the American League West is on the verge of being put to rest.

And, no, the Angels don't want to talk about it.

With less than a month--28 games, to be precise--remaining on their schedule, the Angels have a 7 1/2-game lead, the largest in the franchise's history. They got it Wednesday night with a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, while Texas lost again.

The Angels lead the Rangers by eight games in the lost column. They have won two in a row and 9 of their last 10. They are 19 games above .500.

It is becoming time to consider such things as the Angels' magic number, which, incidentally, is 22.

Unless, that is, you happen to be an Angel with memories of 1984 and 1985--or Mauch, whose ghosts extend as far back as Philadelphia '64.

Those were pennant races that died, all of them.

"This is just one more step in the right direction," Mauch said. "That's the way I look at it."

Kirk McCaskill, Wednesday night's winning pitcher, echoed the same line of thought.

"Last year in July, we were talking about our lead," McCaskill said. "It disappeared pretty quickly."

Then, the Angels led the West by 6 1/2, their biggest first-place advantage until Wednesday night. McCaskill helped the Angels surpass that mark with a five-hit complete game, joining Mike Witt as the second 15-game winner on the Angel pitching staff.

McCaskill improved his record to 15-7. He will make at least six more starts, giving him an outside shot at a 20-win season.

Perhaps McCaskill's most significant statistic is his record this year against the Orioles. He is now 4-0. Without McCaskill, the Angels are 2-6 against Baltimore.

Of course, the 25-year-old right-hander had some assistance in his latest victory. Ruppert Jones, who hit his 16th homer in the second inning, took an extra-base hit away from Fred Lynn with a running catch in the first inning.

There was also Bob Boone's pickoff of Oriole rookie Rick Jones, who, in the excitement over his first major league hit, strolled too far away from first base in the fifth inning.

And there was third base umpire Tim Welke's controversial ruling on a line drive by Eddie Murray in the sixth inning--which provoked fits by both Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver and third base coach Cal Ripken Sr.

Both Weaver and Ripken argued their way out of the game.

With one out in the sixth, Murray drilled a pitch down the left-field line. The ball was headed right for the line, too.

It bounced, Murray rounded first . . . and Welke waved the ball foul by inches.

Murray came sprinting across the infield in protest, but Ripken beat him to Welke. He was the first ejected. Weaver followed out of the dugout. Moments later, he was in the clubhouse, also thrown out for kicking dirt on Welke.

Murray scowled and returned to home plate, where he hit a routine grounder to second base. An error by Wally Joyner and a single by Larry Sheets followed, but Juan Beniquez's fly-out to left field ended the inning without a Baltimore run.

A potentially big inning resulted in nothing--and the ejected Orioles still fumed in the aftermath.

"There was no question it was fair," Ripken Sr. said.

"It gets old," Weaver added, "when every play goes against you."

It's been that kind of month for the Orioles, who were within 2 1/2 games of Boston Aug. 5 and have since gone 7-20.

Wednesday night, they also lost their starting pitcher by the end of the third inning.

Storm Davis raced off the mound to take a throw from Murray on a ground ball by Joyner, stepped on the back right-corner of the bag and twisted his left ankle at an ugly angle.

Davis went down in a heap and rolled on the ground. He never got up on his own but was carried off on a stretcher by Baltimore teammates.

The ankle was examined in the visiting clubhouse by Angel doctor Jules Rasinski. X-rays showed no fracture but indicated a ligament tear. Davis will have the ankle re-examined today in Baltimore.

The mishap brought on reliever Odell Jones, who couldn't preserve a 2-2 tie. Jones gave up two runs in the fifth inning and another in the seventh.

The Angels broke the deadlock when Boone led off the fifth with a double and scored on a triple by Gary Pettis over left fielder Larry Sheets' head. Sheets, like the rest of the Baltimore defense, had expected a bunt and was playing shallow. When Pettis swung away, all Sheets could do was backpedal, reach up and wave at the ball.

Pettis came in on a single to right field by Rob Wilfong.

The Angels scored their final run in the seventh when Boone singled, took second on a sacrifice, moved to third on an infield out and came home on a single by Joyner. The RBI was Joyner's 90th of the season.

Afterward, Doug DeCinces made as bold a state-of-the-West statement as any Angel is likely to offer.

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