Donnie Moore, the forgotten man of the Angels' lost summer, returned to the mound Sunday, and the Anaheim Stadium crowd remembered.
The boos that escorted Moore onto the disabled list after his last appearance July 8 were there again, providing accompaniment while Moore mopped up the Angels' ninth defeat in 11 games, an 8-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Aesthetically, too, Moore came back as he went--turning in 1 sloppy innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 walk and 3 runs, albeit each of them unearned.
The score was 4-2 when Moore replaced starter Jerry Reuss with two outs in the eighth inning. It was 5-2 by the time Moore finished pitching to the first batter, Larry Parrish, who singled home Scott Fletcher from second base.
And it was 8-2 by the time Moore had completed the top of the ninth. The inning included a one-out walk to .215-hitting catcher Don Slaught, an fielding error by Angel third baseman Doug DeCinces, a strikeout of Oddibe McDowell, a run-scoring single by Bob Brower, a run-scoring double by Fletcher and a throwing error by catcher Jack Fimple, which brought home the Rangers' eighth run.
"So-so," was Moore's self-appraisal. "I didn't feel too hot during my second inning, but I didn't make that many bad pitches. At times, I was kind of tentative out there. But, hell, it's been two months."
Sixty-six days to be exact. That's how long Moore's chronically painful rib cage rested before he was reactivated Sunday.
And how long a time is 66 days?
Well, here are a few things that happened to the Angels between Moore's 13th and 14th appearances of 1987:
--Bill Buckner, Tony Armas and Johnny Ray were brought in.
--Gary Pettis, Mark Ryal and Mark McLemore were sent out. And brought back again.
--John Candelaria returned from the disabled list and hurt his ribs.
--Kirk McCaskill returned from the disabled list and hurt his back.
--Don Sutton launched 19 home runs.
--The Angels slipped from three games above .500 (44-41) to seven games below (68-75).
--The Angels went from fourth place and 3 games out to fourth place and 8 1/2 games out.
That last statistic equals a season-high--or low. On the dates of June 19-21 and 24, the Angels were also 8 1/2 games behind the leader in the American League West. This time, the Angels got there by sandwiching a 4-6 East Coast trip between home stands of 4-8 and 1-5.
And the Angels accomplished all of it without Moore, making him, in effect, an innocent bystander to the collapse of a defending division champion.
Yet, on Sunday, there were boos for Moore.
" . . . the crowd," Moore said at his locker. " . . . 'em. They can do whatever they want to do. Just keep paying my salary."
This is scapegoat time on the baseball calendar, those September days when reasons are sought for the demise of all the teams that began April amid so much promise. The Cincinnati Reds belong to that club. So do the Cleveland Indians.
And, now, so do the Angels.
DeCinces sensed as much when he found himself surrounded by reporters in the clubhouse. What had DeCinces accomplished on this afternoon? Two errors in the field and no hits in four at-bats.
"Is there a story here?" DeCinces asked with a touch of suspicion.
Well, sort of. DeCinces is batting .236 with 16 home runs and 58 runs batted in on a team that figured to rely heavily on his offensive production this season. He has also committed 17 errors, 5 more than his total in 1986.
Playing out the final days of a one-year contract and trying to convince the Angels to exercise his option for 1988, DeCinces admitted he has been pressing.
"Without a doubt," DeCinces said. "It's been that way for the last four months.
"But please understand, I'm not using this as an excuse. It's not easy for me to talk about it, but you asked me if I've been thinking about it (his contract status), and I gave you an honest answer--yes."
DeCinces also said, "I'm not going to be made a scapegoat. . . . This time of year, people are gonna point fingers at this guy and that guy, looking for the reason for us losing.
"It's been a tough season, for me and the whole team. Things haven't been smooth all year. We made a lot of mistakes, we've been inconsistent all season long. Wally Joyner has had an exceptional year, but outside of that. . . ."
DeCinces didn't finish his sentence, but he didn't need to. Those who watched Sunday's game knew where DeCinces was coming from.
The Angels managed but two runs against three Texas pitchers, both of them coming on home runs by Joyner. Joyner hit his 28th homer in the first inning, his 29th in the third, and that was all the Angel offense had going for it against Paul Kilgus, Jeff Russell (5-4) and Mitch Williams.
There it was: An entire season compacted into nine innings.
And if Joyner has been a conspicuous standout in this dim Angel summer, he'd prefer not to stand alone.
"I was telling my wife last night, it's like I don't know if I've had a good year or not," Joyner said. "We're not winning, we're not playing well and we can't snap out of it. I'd much rather be winning."