TORONTO — A new country could provide the Angels no asylum Friday night as Gene Mauch's plummeting ballclub proved capable of losing in Canada, just as it had in the United States.
A losing streak that stretched to seven games with the Toronto Blue Jays' 3-1 victory over the Angels at Exhibition Stadium has now spanned both coasts and crossed an international border. For the Angels, there is nowhere left to turn, unless they consider applying for admission to the Mexican League.
"This is rock bottom," Mauch confirmed. "None of us ever dreamed of running into a streak like this. Before the season, we knew this could not possibly happen. A losing streak was out of the question. Impossible."
The thinking then was that the Angels had too much pitching to allow that to happen. If Mike Witt didn't win, there was always Kirk McCaskill. And if McCaskill, didn't win, there was John Candelaria.
And so on.
But with injuries to McCaskill and Donnie Moore, with Candelaria's off-the-field problems and Urbano Lugo's on-the-field troubles, anything became possible. And since beating Toronto, 5-4, in extra innings at Anaheim May 20, the Angels are winless. The seven-game losing streak is the team's longest since 1984--and within four of the franchise's all-time record, set in 1974.
Coming off 8-6 and 8-7 losses at Baltimore, the Angels arrived in Toronto searching for something to wrench them out of their lethargy. Maybe it would take something dramatic. Maybe it would take an inspired pitching effort.
Well, Friday, the Angels got both--Ruppert Jones hit a home run on the game's first pitch and Don Sutton pitched eight strong innings--and it still wasn't enough.
Maybe this thing isn't going to be so easy to shake.
"We haven't put three and three together," said first baseman Wally Joyner, explaining his own equation for success. "You need good pitching, good hitting and good defense. If you get two out of three, you're gonna win, usually. But we've been getting one out of three for more than a week. And now that's magnified because we haven't won in a while and we haven't won the ones we should have won."
The formula for this loss?
"We got good pitching, we hit the ball decent. We just didn't get any runs," Joyner said.
The Angels didn't get any after Jones' leadoff home run. From that point on, Blue Jay starter Dave Stieb (3-3) and relievers Jeff Musselman and Tom Henke combined to shut out the Angels on seven singles.
Meanwhile, Sutton (2-5) gave back the run almost as quickly as he received it. On Sutton's first pitch of the game, Tony Fernandez tripled. Lloyd Moseby, the next hitter, singled him home.
The winning run was scored in the bottom of the second, when Jesse Barfield singled, Fred McGriff doubled and Sutton wild pitched. Toronto added its final run in the third on consecutive singles by Fernandez, Moseby and Rance Mulliniks.
Sutton pitched five scoreless innings after that but, as he summarized it: "I was just good enough to lose. The only positive thing to come out of tonight was that the bullpen got some rest. And that's it."
Mauch tried to chalk up the latest setback to a case of domineering pitching.
"Quite simply, Stieb and Henke pitched strong," Mauch said. "Every year, no matter how good you play, you're gonna lose 50 games and no matter how badly you play, you're gonna win 50. The difference is what you do with the others.
"I probably put this one in the (first) category of getting beat by good pitching."
Stieb, who allowed seven hits in 7 innings, didn't see it quite the same way. Asked if he tired during the latter innings, Stieb said: "It wasn't a question of losing it. I never took it into the game to begin with."
He said the leadoff home run to Jones, a .194 hitter, was proof of that.
"After that, I thought to myself, 'I've got 80 more pitches to throw,' " Stieb said. "I hope they don't get 80 more runs."
But with Mauch resting slumping Brian Downing (5 for 41) and Doug DeCinces (11 for 69), the Angels started a lineup severely lacking in offensive punch. Friday's results bore that out, with whatever assistance Stieb could provide.
The Angels are knocking on the door of sixth place, and are beginning to lose sight of the Kansas City Royals in the American League West, yet Mauch insists the talent and the desire are there.
"When you look at their faces and see the intensity they show, you know they're going after it as hard as they can," Mauch said. "Losing streaks are one thing with a bad team. Then, (the players) can't see the end of it.
"In 1961, I had a team that lost 23 in a row," Mauch continued, alluding to the record-setting Philadelphia Phillies. "We were bad--and there was no end to it. But these guys still don't believe it. They know they can play."
Joyner said the same thing, although in somewhat different terms.