OAKLAND — Why is it that after another dismal performance by starter Kirk McCaskill Monday night, you wonder if there's been some kind of mistake?
For instance, did doctors really remove bone chips from McCaskill's troubled right elbow? Or did they put more in?
Also, what happened to the guy who apparently had recovered well enough after three minor league appearances to retain his place in the starting rotation?
And should the Angels, 6-1 losers to the Oakland A's Monday night, begin perspiring a bit? They find themselves slipping slowly in the mediocre American League West Division, at last look, 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins. This latest bumble brings the Angel losing streak to a four games.
McCaskill again lasted less than four innings. His record is 2-3. More surprising is his earned-run average since his return to the active roster July 11: 9.64. Fourteen innings of work have produced 15 earned runs.
"When you've been out a long time, it's not easy to get back in competition with people who have been playing every day," Manager Gene Mauch said. "It's not an easy thing to do.
"His concentration to this point has been getting his stuff together, getting well. Once that's done, you've still got to play the game."
McCaskill is trying, but with unimpressive results. His previous start--and loss--was marred by a stiff shoulder and right elbow that saw him leave before the end of the fourth inning. A precautionary measure, said McCaskill and the Angels. Nothing to fret about.
Before that, in Milwaukee, McCaskill allowed five runs in 3 innings. His first start since returning from surgery, the Angels pointed out. A grace period of sorts.
But now this. Nine hits and five runs in 3 innings. A wild pitch. Four walks. McCaskill struck out five batters, including former teammate Reggie Jackson twice.
"His stuff was all right," Mauch said.
The problem then?
Start with Oakland starter Dave Stewart (13-7), who won his sixth consecutive decision. Stewart retired the final 11 Angel batters and allowed only five hits.
He had help, mainly an Angel lineup that was without first baseman and leading RBI producer Wally Joyner. Joyner is suffering from a rib cage injury and isn't expected to make an appearance in the next several days.
That left the Angels with the following offense:
--Watch Devon White single twice, steal second . . . and get stranded twice. As White did what he could, Brian Downing, Jack Howell (three strikeouts) and Doug DeCinces were a collective 0 for 11.
Instead, the Angels received their lone run from the unlikeliest of sources, shortstop Gus Polidor. In the fifth inning, Polidor hit his first major league home run.
So much for Angel highlights.
McCaskill's troubles began in the first inning, when he spent much of his time bouncing pitches in the general direction of home plate. He allowed a single to leadoff batter Luis Polonia, followed soon thereafter by a wild pitch. He struck out Mike Davis, but then walked Jose Canseco. An out later, McCaskill walked Carney Lansford. Jackson spared McCaskill further embarrassment by striking out with the bases loaded.
Before McCaskill's elbow injury, that would have been that. Teams rarely received a second chance from McCaskill. Bright, a conscientious student, McCaskill had a knack of returning to the mound a different pitcher after such innings. Mistakes tended to disappear as the game wore on.
Not Monday night. If anything, McCaskill became more prone to error, more inconsistent.
His second inning was one to forget:
--Single by Tony Bernazard . . . single by Terry Steinbach . . . single by Alfredo Griffin . . . single by Polonia . . . a walk to Davis . . . Canseco double play . . . single by Mark McGwire . . . single by Lansford . . . and, again, an inning-ending strikeout by Jackson.
By the time it was over, the A's had sent nine batters to the plate, each one apparently enjoying himself more than the next--except Jackson, of course.
Four runs were scored in the inning, thanks to a team-record six hits, all of them singles.
"If everything goes right, if everything goes properly, professionally, they score one run in the second inning," Mauch said.
Less than two innings later, McCaskill was gone. An uneventful third inning gave way to an all-too-eventful fourth, complete with one more run, two hits and another walk. By the time McCaskill made it to the runway and the Angel clubhouse, Jackson had ended the inning with a third strikeout.
Too late. Too bad for McCaskill.