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Royals Lay Further Waste to Angels' Sinking Hopes in West With a 4-2 Defeat

September 09, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

The Angels found a new way to embarrass their division further Tuesday night.

In effect, they gave it a new name, turning the American League West into the American League Waste.

Five times in the first seven inning of a 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals, they put their leadoff batter on base. Three times they put their next batter on base, too.

But when it was over, after they had emerged with more walks (7) than hits (4) and had taken all those opportunities to score only on two ground outs, the Angels were left to reflect on the ultimate waste:

They had failed to capitalize on a loss by the Minnesota Twins, the division leader. The Angels remained 6 1/2 back with 23 games to play.

Now they are also two games behind the third-place Royals, who overcame their own frustrations--they stranded 12 men on base--with the help of George Brett, who hit a two-run homer and run-producing single, and pitcher Mark Gubicza, who had not won since Aug. 2.

An Anaheim Stadium crowd of 25,637 saw Kansas City relief pitcher John Davis retire the final seven Angels in order after a tightrope walk by Gubicza, who came in 9-16 overall, 0-6 in his last six starts.

In addition to the Angels' inability to deliver the key hits, Manager Gene Mauch had a memory lapse that helped to kill one of his team's many threats.

It happened in the seventh inning, which Bill Buckner opened by drawing a walk. Mark McLemore ran for Buckner and watched Mark Ryal pop up a sacrifice attempt.

Ruppert Jones then batted for Dick Schofield and took the count to 3 and 0. But Mauch, thinking it was 3 and 1, gave McLemore a steal sign on the next pitch.

Gubicza threw a strike and catcher Larry Owen threw another, nailing McLemore at second. Jones then drew a walk, the seventh and last by the struggling Gubicza.

Jim Eppard, who hit .341 at Edmonton, then batted for Bob Boone and followed with a sharp single to center in his first major-league at-bat.

The hit would have scored McLemore, tying the game, 3-3, but there were two outs with two on when Davis came in to strike out Brian Downing.

Mauch insisted later that the count was 3 and 1.

"Either you're wrong or I was wrong," Mauch said to a reporter as he left his office.

Jones said that his manager was wrong.

In the Royal clubhouse, Brett said: "It's a mystery to us all. Ruppert got down there (first base) and said, 'Did I miss something?"'

The Angels kept missing, scoring only on a Buckner groundout after singles by Wally Joyner and Jack Howell in the second and a Joyner ground out after walks to Downing and Devon White in the sixth.

"We can hit better than that," said Mauch, who may also have forgotten that his team is last in the league in team batting.

If the blown count contributed to a blown threat in the seventh, consider the first inning. That's when the Angels sent only three batters to the plate, even though two of the three reached base. Downing walked, White grounded into a double play and Johnny Ray was thrown out attempting to stretch a single into a double.

That set the tone for a gutsy performance by Gubicza, who has seen the Royals--last in the league in runs scored--score only 25 runs in his 16 losses.

Brett hammered his 19th homer off Jerry Reuss in the first and singled off loser Willie Fraser to break a 2-2 tie in the seventh. Willie Wilson singled in an insurance run in the eighth.

Said Mauch: "A lot of days you'd like your pitchers to hold the other team to four runs."

Brett, in addition to his hitting, helped frustrate the Angels with a diving stop of a Ray smash after Downing and White had walked to open the sixth. That stop turned a potential extra-base hit into the first out of a one-run inning.

Mauch reflected on the Twins' loss later and said: "The people up front have been waiting around, but they can't wait much longer because they're going to be playing each other."

With the calendar working against them, the Angels have now lost six of their last seven.

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