The road to 300 career victories is not necessarily paved with 20-win seasons. For Don Sutton, the newest member of baseball's 300 Club, the magic number has always been 15.
Sutton won 20 games in a season only once, but break down the first two decades of his career and the typical Don Sutton season looks like this: 15 wins and 11 losses. His record in 1985, when he turned 40 while pitching for the Oakland A's and the Angels? Fifteen-and-ten.
Now, at 41, Sutton's pilot remains on automatic. With the Angels' 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the first game of Monday's twilight doubleheader at Anaheim Stadium, Sutton reached the 15-win level for the 12th time.
Meanwhile, in the second game, rookie Ray Chadwick remained 310 victories behind Sutton, pitching just 3 innings of a 7-0 Angel loss. Chadwick (0-5) allowed four runs on eight hits, including RBI doubles by Joe Carter, Mel Hall and Tony Bernazard.
Cleveland's Rich Yett (5-3) limited the Angels to just four hits en route to his first big league shutout. Through the first seven innings, a single by Jack Howell was the extent of the Angel attack.
While Texas won in Seattle, the split put the Angels' magic number at four.
Sutton moved the Angels one step closer to the playoffs by following the same blueprint that he has followed in virtually every start.
Usually, he will make 100 pitches. Usually, he will serve up a home run. Usually, he will leave with a lead.
Monday night, Sutton made 95 pitches--with Brook Jacoby lining No. 95 into left field for a single that opened the seventh inning. He served up a home run to Mel Hall in the sixth. He left with a 4-3 lead.
"Ho hum," said Sutton's catcher, Bob Boone. "That's what you expect out of him. You know exactly what you're going to get out of Don Sutton."
Bobby Grich provided Sutton with the offense he needed with a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth. Chuck Finley and Doug Corbett then provided the relief. Finley pitched one scoreless inning, and Corbett worked the last two innings to earn his 10th save.
Now 15-9, Sutton added yet another footnote to the Angel record book. With Sutton, Mike Witt (18-8) and Kirk McCaskill (16-9), the Angels have three 15-game winners on their pitching staff for the first time in the franchise's history.
That impressed Sutton's teammates.
"Was that Sutton's 15th?" Doug DeCinces said. "What can you say? He's 41 years old. Awesome. The mark of consistency, the consummate pro."
Boone, who is as long in the tooth behind the plate as Sutton is on the mound, can appreciate such concepts as longevity and consistency.
"He's been doing it this way for so long," Boone said. "When he was a baby, he was doing the same thing. He has outstanding control and he's smart. He knows what I'm thinking.
"Don has just made a career out of making the pitches when he had to. He has to make a lot of high-tension pitches . . . like he did tonight."
Sutton had to pitch out of trouble, which was caused mainly by the defense behind him. The Angels committed three errors in the first five innings, two on one play.
Problems first cropped up in the fourth. Carter drove a ball to the deepest part of Anaheim Stadium--straight over center fielder Gary Pettis' head. Pettis approached the wall, leaped, but failed to bring it down. It was the type of ball Pettis caught in 1985, when he earned a Gold Glove.
All this produced a triple for Carter, who then scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow center, thanks to an apparent mental lapse by Pettis, who caught the ball and then held it, possibly thinking it was the third out. By the time he dislodged it and threw home, Carter had tagged and was running. He scored easily.
Then Cory Snyder hit a grounder to shortstop. Dick Schofield fielded it and threw it away for one error. Right fielder George Hendrick bobbled it for another. Hendrick then threw the ball away, but was spared another error when Schofield backed the play up. Snyder wound up standing on third base.
High-tension pitch No. 1. Sutton made the proper one, getting Dave Clark to ground to second to end the inning.
The Angel defense broke down again in the fifth. With Jacoby on second and two out, Brett Butler singled to right. Jacoby scored, but Butler reached third when Hendrick again misfired on his relay to the infield.
High-tension pitch No. 2. Again, Sutton responded, inducing Julio Franco to fly to center for the third out.
Hall's 18th home run of the year put Sutton down, 3-1, after the top of the sixth. But in the bottom of the inning, Cleveland starter Scott Bailes (10-10) walked Brian Downing, yielded a single to Hendrick and surrendered a home run to Grich. It was Grich's ninth home run and his first since Aug. 16.
Sutton worked with the lead for only one pitch. Jacoby led off the seventh inning with a single on Sutton's 95th pitch and that was it. Manager Gene Mauch, as routine, brought on the bullpen.