A day earlier, the Angels had been scolded, harshly and heatedly, by Manager Gene Mauch for not doing the little things--hitting behind runners, laying down sacrifice bunts, scoring runs with outs. Listening to this, the Angels nodded in agreement, mulled it over, took it all in . . . and then went out and bailed themselves out of the series finale with a pair of two-run home runs.
The blows were delivered by Brian Downing in the sixth and Ruppert Jones in the eighth. They were big hits, both in distance and importance, enabling the Angels to win on yet another day when the rest of the batting order went stagnant and the defense played with a lack of consistency.
"They got it all backwards," a smiling Mauch said. "I was talking about the little things, and they come up with some big things."
For the Angels, who needed the victory to remain a half-game ahead of Chicago atop the American League Western Division standings, that was fortunate. The only way they moved runners over Sunday was by moving them into the dugout.
Rod Carew was on second base, by way of a leadoff double, when Downing connected on his third home run of the season. And pinch-runner Darrell Miller was on first, entering the game after Reggie Jackson walked, when Jones put homer No. 4 over the center-field fence.
The Angels didn't get many more baserunners--just six--and each of them went nowhere fast.
"We're still not playing anywhere near where we should be," Downing said. "Today, we didn't have many situations that needed a big hit. We just got a couple of long balls.
"Without pitching and defense, we would've never been in the ballgame."
The Angels' pitching again kept the team close, waiting patiently for the offense to come up with something--anything. Starter Jim Slaton (4-2) yielded five hits and one run in seven innings before Donnie Moore finished up to earn his ninth save.
The defense, meanwhile, was good mainly for suspense. It swung from extreme to extreme--very, very bad one moment and very, very good the other.
New York's only run was earned, but it came sandwiched between two errors in the fourth inning.
Rickey Henderson led off with a walk and quickly wound up at second base when Slaton's pickoff throw to first wound up down the right-field line. After an out and a walk to Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield singled to left to score Henderson.
The bases became loaded when Jones, starting in left field, dropped a line drive off the bat of Don Baylor. But further damage was averted when Carew turned a grounder by Ron Hassey into a first-to-home-to-first double play.
Double plays also saved the Angels in the fifth and eighth innings. After Willie Randolph walked to open the fifth, Mike Pagliarulo tapped back to Slaton, who set one double play in motion. And shortstop Dick Schofield turned in an unassisted double play in the eighth, grabbing a line drive by Winfield and then tagging Ken Griffey, who had strayed off second base.
The double plays were enough to sustain the Angels until Downing could produce the game-winner and Jones could provide the insurance.
Two swings do not, however, equate to a reawakening of the Angels' dormant offense. After totaling nine hits in successive losses Friday and Saturday, the Angels managed just seven against Ed Whitson (1-5) and Rich Bordi Sunday. And Downing was reluctant to place any special significance on his home run.
"It's not necessarily gonna be one guy or one hit that will turn us around," Downing said. "There's only one guy who can carry this team, and that's Reggie. Or Doug (DeCinces), when he's healthy.
"We're not gonna struggle all year. But, it's nice to finally win these type of games--games we consistently lost over the past few years."
Mauch, too, was talking with cautious optimism.
"The important thing is winning," he said. "When you get one win, it suggests that there's gonna be another one tomorrow.
"It's the same with hitting. You get some big hits, you expect some more. . . . The little things will come. Big hitting helps little hitting."
Perhaps. But for one day, anyway, the Angels had to be content with the short-term effect of the big-bang theory.
In a response to Gene Mauch's closed-door meeting Saturday, Reggie Jackson called a players' meeting before Sunday's game. "This meeting was more in fun," Brian Downing said. "Maybe it was Reggie's way of getting us to relax a little more." Said Jim Slaton: "It was nice to hear what Reggie had to say. He told us, 'I'm proud to be a part of this club, I know how we're struggling right now, but it's been just a few games where we've been terrible.' Everything was positive." . . . Rod Carew, who had a single and a double to surpass Wee Willie Keeler for 18th spot on the all-time career hit list (2,956), said Mauch's outburst "all in all helped us get a little more intensity. No matter how long you play this game, you're going to need that extra kick in the tush every now and then. All spring, we worked on advancing runners in scoring position. Sometimes you get lax and you have to have someone say something about it." . . . Carew, on playing with a sore foot that refuses to heal: "It makes me feel 39 years old." . . . Gary Pettis underwent treatment for his groin injury Sunday, which included riding a stationary bike for 10 minutes. "It's still sore," Pettis said. "I can't even make a guess when it'll be ready. Maybe three or four days." . . . Slaton had allowed just five hits in seven innings, but when the Angels took the field to start the eighth inning, reliever Donnie Moore was on the mound. "It's not too often that I take a guy out of a five-hit, one-run game," Mauch said. "In years gone by, I'd not even thought of it--unless they'd hit 20 line drives for outs. But Slaton had lost a little off his fastball and Moore was down there, fresh, ready to work. He needed to get only six outs, while Slaton had to get his 22nd to 27th outs." Moore came through to earn his ninth save of the year. "One of these days when he doesn't do it," Mauch said, "I'll have to come up with something else." . . . Bob Boone helped stifle a budding New York threat in the third inning by throwing out two potential base stealers, Willie Randolph and Bobby Meacham, in succession.