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Angels Sink to New Depths With 8th Consecutive Loss

May 31, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

TORONTO — After the sixth straight loss, Angel catcher Darrell Miller said: "I don't think things can get any worse."

After the seventh straight loss, Angel Manager Gene Mauch said: "This is rock bottom."

So what's worse than the worst? What's lower than rock bottom?

We take you now to the 10th inning of Saturday's game at Exhibition Stadium, where the Angels went beyond the beyond to surpass all the previous setbacks in a 4-3 defeat by the Toronto Blue Jays, extending, in bizarre fashion, their losing streak to eight games.

For the record, Angel reliever Gary Lucas walked Rob Ducey with the bases loaded to bring home the decisive run. But it was hardly as simple as that.

The Angels' last stand on this afternoon was a mess--an ugly melange created by a third baseman's hesitation, a shortstop's faulty footwork, a defensive strategy that almost worked and three final pitches by Lucas that missed their mark.

It began with Toronto's Ernie Whitt on second base and Jack Lazorko pitching for the Angels. Beginning his 10th inning of work, Lazorko surrendered a double to Whitt and a groundball single to Kelly Gruber that went through the left side of the infield.

Whitt moved to third on the hit, but when the relay came in to third baseman Gus Polidor, Polidor held the ball, allowing Gruber to advance to second.

That left first base open, which Mauch soon filled by bringing in Lucas and instructing him to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Cecil Fielder. Manny Lee pinch-ran for Fielder, and the bases were loaded with no outs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, which, for Mauch, meant employing a five-man infield. Jack Howell came in from left field to become the roving fifth infielder--positioning himself between shortstop and second base for the right-handed hitting Tony Fernandez.

Fernandez hit a one-hopper to Polidor, who threw home to catcher Bob Boone to force Whitt. Boone then rifled the ball back to third, where shortstop Dick Schofield was covering. The throw beat Gruber to the base, but Schofield, surprised by the throw, was straddling the bag, never touching it. He tried to tag Gruber, but third-base umpire Terry Cooney signaled Gruber safe.

Instead of a double play, the bases remained loaded with only one out. Mauch stayed with the five-man infield, shifting Howell to the right side for left-handed hitter Lloyd Moseby.

Lucas recorded out No. 2 by getting Moseby to cue a pitch in front of the plate, which Boone pounced on to tag Gruber en route to the plate.

One out to go. The Angels returned to a traditional defensive alignment with Howell returning to left field. Up stepped Ducey, a .154-hitting rookie who was a seventh-inning defensive replacement for Rick Leach.

Lucas walked Ducey on five pitches. Lee scored and the Angels burrowed through rock bottom to explore new depths. Eight straight defeats have dropped them into sixth place in the American League West, behind the Chicago White Sox and just ahead of the last-place Texas Rangers.

The losing streak is the club's longest since 1982. Three more defeats and the all-time Angel record for consecutive losses--11, set in 1974--will be equaled.

Lucas, when first encountered by reporters, could not bring himself to discuss Saturday's defeat. "I'm too ticked off to talk," he said.

After draining half a beer, Lucas finally cooled down.

"Every day, it's something different," he said, his voice barely audible. "This has got to end pretty soon. The odds are in our favor."

The odds were with Lucas, too, he figured, when the count was 1 and 1 against Ducey.

"He's a young hitter, he's trying to drive in the winning run, you don't figure he's going up there to look at pitches," Lucas said. "I was trying to get a ground ball, so I threw him a pitch low."

Ducey wouldn't bite. The count went to 2 and 1 and after that, Lucas said: "I couldn't right myself. The last pitch, I had no control of."

Of course, Lucas would have been out of the inning had Schofield simply stepped on third base after taking Boone's throw on the double-play attempt. But Schofield said he never expected Boone to throw the ball to third.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100, you go to first on that play," Schofield said. "I was around the bag, but I wasn't touching it. I was over there, following up the play.

"But Boone went to third instead of first. It was a good play on his part. It just didn't turn out."

Said Lazorko, who watched the play from the dugout: "I think it crossed everybody up. Schoey was not expecting it over there. But Boone saw a slow runner going to third. It was a great play by Boone."

Echoed Mauch: "It was too good a play for all of them--the TV, the umpires, all of them. You won't see the same play again in four or five years."

Schofield, however, contended that he still had the out, disputing Cooney's ruling that he hadn't tagged Gruber.

"I had the ball, and he slid into my leg," Schofield said. "I tagged something.

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