You couldn't blame Gene Mauch for feeling pretty good early Thursday evening.
His team had just come home from a nine-game trip in which they had won eight times to even their record at 39-39 and pull within four games of first place in the American League West.
And he had just walked back from the bullpen after watching two of his best pitchers--Kirk McCaskill and Donnie Moore--prove that they are almost ready to return from the disabled list.
"I'm pleased, yes," Mauch said, "but you're talking to a very selfish man, partner. This may be the only place I'm selfish, but out here, it's boundless. What really makes me happy, though, is that we're suddenly playing the way we can play."
As Mauch well knows, baseball can be an emotional roller coaster and, sure enough, an hour later, he wasn't feeling all that great about the way his team was playing. The Angels gave up four unearned runs in the first inning and his ace, Mike Witt, was clearly struggling.
A couple of hours later, with his team leading the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-5, with two outs in the ninth inning, Mauch was feeling better again.
It didn't last long.
The Brewers put together three singles for two runs off reliever Greg Minton and the teams were tied going into extra innings at Anaheim Stadium. A crowd of 28,116 saw the Angels' 10th win in the last 11 games slip away when Dick Schofield's relay slipped under catcher Bob Boone's glove as Milwaukee's Rob Deer scored from first with the tying run on Ernest Riles' single. Deer would have been out by 10 feet if Boone could have come up with the ball.
The shaky start and the shakier ninth weren't the only negatives, though. Witt said later he was never able to get loose and was examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum after leaving the game in the fifth inning. The Angels reported that the stiffness in Witt's right shoulder was not considered to be serious, however, and he would be re-examined in a few days.
A lot of fans may have come to the park hoping to see first-hand proof of the magical transformation that had turned the once-struggling Angels into a .900 club over the past week and a half. They certainly didn't get any examples in the first inning.
Mike Felder, the first batter of the game, hit a high chopper that Witt took his eye off momentarily, and the ball glanced off his glove for an error. Felder took second on a wild pitch and scored one out later when B.J. Surhoff singled to right.
After Greg Brock grounded to first, Rob Deer dumped a broken-bat double down the left-field line to score Surhoff. Deer's double may have been lucky. The next two weren't. Ernest Riles hit one to the wall in right-center to score Deer and then Braggs lined a shot into the left-center gap. Left fielder George Hendrick managed to get his chest in front of the ball to keep it from going to the wall. But Riles scored easily, and the Brewers had a quick 4-0 lead.
Milwaukee got its fifth unearned run of the game in the third when Brock singled to left, took second on another Witt wild pitch and then scored when Wally Joyner failed to come up with a backhand stab of a Jim Paciorek shot down the first-base line. Joyner got an error, and the Brewers had a five-run margin.
Juan Nieves, the left-hander whom the Brewers started calling "Juan No-No" after his no-hitter against Baltimore April 15, has been more like "Juan Oh-No" of late. He was 1-3 with a 5.90 ERA in June, but he didn't allow a hit Thursday night until Gary Pettis beat out a bad-hop grounder to short with one out in the third. Mark McLemore walked and, after a successful double steal, Devon White singled them both home. They were White's 13th and 14th RBIs in the last 11 games.
The Angels touched Nieves for another run in the fourth. Doug DeCinces walked, Hendrick doubled to left and Bob Boone's sacrifice fly cut the Brewers' lead to 5-3.
Witt gave up a leadoff double to Brock in the fifth and then struck out Deer before giving way to Gary Lucas. In 4 innings, Witt threw 89 pitches and yielded 8 hits, 4 of which were doubles. All five Brewer runs were unearned, so his ERA didn't suffer. His confidence, on the other hand, must have.
White got RBI No. 50 of the season and his 17th homer in the fifth, a two-out solo drive over the 370-foot sign in left.
The Angels finally recovered from their shaky start and took over the lead in the sixth inning. DeCinces walked and, one out later, Hendrick doubled to left. Then Joyner, protecting the plate on a 2-2 count, reached out and stroked a two-run single to left to make it 6-5.
The Angels went ahead, 7-5, when Jay Aldrich balked with the bases loaded in the eighth.
And the rest was just another adventure in How The Stomach Churns.