ARLINGTON, Tex. — You really know the Angels are out of the American League West race when they lose a late September game in the 10th inning and their tenacious little relief pitcher, DeWayne Buice, sits in the locker room afterward and complains about a scorer's decision.
Buice wound up the losing pitcher Saturday night in a 4-3 Texas victory when he gave up a ground-ball double to Bob Brower and a bloop RBI single to Scott Fletcher. He was upset over both hits, but was particularly irked that Brower's three-hopper off shortstop Dick Schofield's glove was ruled a double.
"Double?" Buice asked incredulously. "Don't even use that word. . . . That's the cheapest double I've ever given up. They've got to change it (the call). To call that a double is totally ludicrous.
"If the official scorer thinks that's a double, he should go officiate basketball--a sport he knows something about."
Brower's grounder caught Schofield between hops and kicked off the heel of his glove, rolling into shallow center field and dying on the grass. Brower alertly rounded first base and kept sprinting, beating center fielder Devon White's relay to second with a slide.
Buice believed the play should have been scored an error.
"Well, yeah. If you ask Schofield, he'll certainly tell you that was no double," Buice said.
"Now, I'm not putting him down. Schoey is a fantastic shortstop. I'm glad we've got him. But it's bad enough getting a loss like that--and then getting an earned run to boot. I don't usually (complain) about anything, but that was ridiculous."
Buice, a 30-year-old rookie who spent a decade's apprenticeship in the minors, is earning the major league minimum this season--$62,500. He has made the most of his first chance in a big league bullpen, saving a club-high 16 games, and now could have his first chance at a six-figure salary.
The way Buice sees it, every little bit now will count later.
"I've been on a salary drive all year," he said. "It's a necessity for me to put up good numbers. I'm 30 years old. If I don't put up good numbers, I'll go back to the Mexican League and they'll give some 20-year-old rookie my job."
So, was the play an error?
"I thought it was," Schofield said. "I dunno, that's a play that could have been made. I guess the scorer saw it differently.
"It's a ball you get by laying back on it or going for it on a hop. It caught me in between hops."
When word of this discussion--double or error--got back to Gene Mauch, the Angel manager bristled.
"Buice told you that?" Mauch asked. "I'll talk to Buice. All he should care about is winning the game."
Buice (6-7) lost this game when Fletcher drove in Brower with a bloop single to center field. When Brower crossed home plate as White bobbled the ball, the Angels lost their third straight game, fell to 4-13 in September and dropped 9 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the AL West.
That's the Angels' largest deficit in the standings since 1983--when the Angels followed up Mauch's first divisional championship with another miserable encore performance.
The Angels had two major opportunities to win this one, in the 7th and 10th innings, but Doug DeCinces played a key role in scuttling both.
With runners on first and third and one out in the top of the seventh, DeCinces was called upon by Mauch to pinch-hit for Gary Pettis. DeCinces proceeded to do what Pettis does best--strike out--and when Wally Joyner followed with a foul-out, the ending came to a close.
The Angels also had runners on first and second with one out in the 10th, with DeCinces leading off second. DeCinces' led off a little too much, however, as Texas reliever Mitch Williams picked him off with a whirl and a throw to second. DeCinces was caught in a rundown and another scoring opportunity was thwarted.
Afterward, Mauch avoided questions about DeCinces' pickoff, onlymuttering, "We are fast approaching an all-time low in futility with men on base."