Fred Lynn and Jim Dwyer hit home runs. Doug DeCinces got clobbered by the railing on the photo well alongside the Angel dugout. Mark McLemore missed a bunt, turning baserunner Ruppert Jones into easy prey between second and third.
On their own, on another day, these events decide baseball games. Players and managers have a name for them: Pivotal plays. Or, if the tobacco chaw is too large for so much enunciation: big plays.
But in the Baltimore Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Angels at Anaheim Stadium Saturday, they represented nothing more than filler--minor twists in a master plot that is seemingly bigger than all of them.
On Saturday, Baltimore's Scott McGregor pitched against the Angels' Mike Witt. Considering the track records of these pitchers, nothing else really mattered.
When McGregor pitches against the Angels, he usually wins.
When Witt pitches against the Orioles, he usually loses.
Never mind that McGregor entered this game with a 1-5 record and a 5.01 earned-run average, or that Witt was 5-2 and coming off three straight victories. History swung this encounter in favor of the Orioles before the opening pitch.
For the 20th time in 27 career decisions against California, McGregor defeated the Angels. Through 6-plus innings, he limited them to 2 runs and 6 singles before letting the Baltimore bullpen wrap things up.
Meanwhile, Witt's career record against the Orioles slipped to 4-9, his poorest showing against any American League club. And no team has hit him harder. Before Saturday, Witt's overall ERA against Baltimore was 5.44.
Do players pay attention to numbers and trends of this sort?
Lynn, who broke a 2-2 tie with an opposite-field home run off Witt, said there's no doubt about it.
"Don't you believe that guys don't think about stuff like that," Lynn said. "You start wondering--'What is it I do wrong against these guys?' And when you think, instead of just pitching, that has to give the other team an advantage."
McGregor hasn't had a winning season since 1984, but he went 2-1 against the Angels last season and is 13-4 in his last 17 decisions at Anaheim.
How do you figure?
"Some guys just have their teams," Lynn said. "Year in and year out, whether he's doing well or terrible, McGregor comes in here and wins."
Said McGregor: "For years, it's befuddled me, just as much as anybody else. It's gotten to the point that my confidence is so high and theirs is so low.
"I don't know. It's not like they're the same team. Over the years, they've changed, I've changed. Maybe it's just that I enjoy coming out here and playing in front of family."
McGregor was born in Inglewood and attended El Segundo High School.
Witt, however, is another local product, a graduate of Anaheim's Servite High. Yet, he seldom makes good when the Orioles are in the other dugout.
"Either he's been dynamite against them or they've hit him hard in day games," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said of Witt. "Last year, (John) Shelby hurt him here. But, he's pitched well against them and lost, too. I remember one game he lost, 1-0, when he kicked a ball by (Eddie) Murray."
There was no self-inflicted damage by Witt Saturday. The Orioles earned the four runs they scored against him.
In the fourth inning, Dwyer singled and Cal Ripken doubled. A sacrifice fly by Murray brought home Dwyer, and Ripken scored on a single by Lynn.
Then in the sixth and seventh innings, Lynn and Dwyer homered. When Ripken and Murray followed Dwyer's fifth homer of the season with back-to-back singles, Mauch called off Witt.
Witt left after pitching 6 innings, allowing 10 hits and one walk. He struck out only one.
Mauch said Witt pitched well enough for a better fate. "I've seen a lot of guys win a lot of games pitching less effectively than that," Mauch said.
But to beat McGregor, Witt needed some luck. And this was not a good day for Angel fortune.
The Angels lost their cleanup hitter, DeCinces, in the fourth inning after he gave chase to a pop foul off the bat of Murray. The ball was veering toward the seats next to the third-base dugout, and DeCinces ran full-bore into the photo well, the top railing catching him just below the chin.
It was an ugly collision, and DeCinces went down and stayed down for several minutes. Eventually, he staggered back to take his position at third base, but was removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth with what was diagnosed as a bruised throat.
"He got hit right in the Adam's apple," Mauch said. "He'll be all right. But he had some dizziness and blurred vision afterward, and that's when it's time to go."
The Angels ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the bottom of the seventh.
Bob Boone and Gary Pettis led off with the singles that knocked McGregor out of the game. Jones then ran for Boone at second base, and McLemore stepped to plate against Baltimore reliever Ken Dixon.