MINNEAPOLIS — Anaheim's best-known slumps ended Friday night during the Angels' 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, with Don Sutton and Wally Joyner both returning to form.
Remember Sutton, the 310-game winner? He had been stuck on that number since last Sept. 22, going winless in his next five starts and opening his 22nd major league season with an 0-3 record and a 7.07 earned-run average.
Remember Wally, the wonder rookie? Five days ago, he sat sulking in the players' lounge of the Angels' clubhouse, contemplating a .192 batting average and wondering how Wally World had ever slipped off its axis.
Friday night in a strange place known as the Metrodome, Sutton and Joyner re-surfaced. Sutton won, moving him into a tie for 13th place on the all-time list with Tom Seaver, and Joyner hit . . . and hit . . . and hit . . . and hit. With three singles and a bases-loaded double, Joyner went 4 for 4 to produce the first four-hit game of his major league career.
Both could trace the turnaround to a one-on-one discussion they had in that players' lounge last Sunday. Joyner was down, Sutton was down, but when they got together, they sought to lift each other's spirits.
"We were talking about not giving up, about working hard, about caring," Joyner said. "To probably sum it up, it was a great man-to-man talk. We found we could both help each other."
Sutton, of course, could offer the wisdom of experience. He told Joyner that "there was nothing wrong with being frustrated or being hurt or struggling. All of life is a series of struggles--and the successful people are the ones to wade through them." After two decades on the mound, Sutton had done a lot of wading.
But what could Joyner, a 24-year-old first baseman, possibly say that the 42-year-old Sutton didn't already know?
"Maybe some of my enthusiasm rubbed off on Don," Joyner said. "When you play as long as he has, the game can get old. I wanted him to be excited about the game."
Then, of course, there was the tangible assist Joyner offered Sutton. He had three hits in the first four innings, helping present Sutton with a 7-0 advantage.
A seven-run lead can put a pitcher's mind at ease.
"I'm sure the runs helped," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said. "It kind of heightens your responsibility out there. All of a sudden, you're not just pitching a ballgame--you gotta hold onto this thing."
Sutton hung on, all right. He had a six-hit shutout through six innings before tiring when his pitch count neared the 100 mark.
In the seventh, Sutton gave up singles to Roy Smalley, Tom Brunansky and Steve Lombardozzi and lost the shutout on Al Newman's run-scoring infield grounder. When he then walked Randy Bush, Mauch went to the mound and brought reliever Mike Cook with him.
Cook closed out the victory by limiting the Twins to one single over the final 2 innings.
Joyner had a hand in five of the Angels' runs. He singled and scored in the first inning. He singled, stole a base (the sixth of his career) and scored again in the third. Then, in the fourth, he doubled high off the blue vinyl tarpaulin that covers the wall in right-center field that brought home three Angel runs.
Since that somber Sunday in Anaheim, Joyner has gone 9 for 18 with three home runs and nine RBIs. In a span of five games, he has risen his batting average nearly 80 points to .271.
"Sometimes," Mauch said, "when you hit rock bottom, or what you think is rock bottom, nothing but good can happen after that.
"Wally wasn't very lucky and he wasn't swinging the bat well. Plus, he was trying to carry too big a load. He was trying to go three for one. He was trying to get four hits each at-bat."
If Joyner hadn't reached rock bottom, he was close to it.
"It was my lowest point of this year," Joyner said. "I'd had stretches like that during the second half of last year, but because of the numbers I put on the board in the first half, it wasn't as noticeable. Those numbers helped eased the discomfort."
The only number Joyner had noticed in 1987 was .192.
"I wasn't getting the job done," he said.
Neither was Sutton. And he didn't need to consult any numbers.
"I want to play only as long as I'm not embarrassing myself," said Sutton, echoing his oft-stated objective. "If I had gone on for two or three months like my first few starts, that would have been a pretty good indication to me."
But, the career continues. Sutton has victory No. 311. And Joyner hasn't slipped into sophomore oblivion.
"It makes you feel good," Joyner said. "Neither one of us gave up. Hopefully, tonight, we got out of two slumps at once."