Angels, Witt Go Long Way in 9-2 Victory Over Tigers
Stimulated by new batting styles, Bob Boone and Gary Pettis continued to hit with unprecedented consistency--and distance--Saturday.
Each hit his first home run of the season as the Angels made economical use of eight hits and seven walks in a 9-2 victory that was their fourth in five games with the world champion Detroit Tigers.
Friday night, Jack Morris was the victim as the Angels dumped a three-game losing streak. Saturday, Dan Petry, the American League leader in wins (he is 8-4), was the loser.
Petry yielded a two-run homer to Boone in the second and a three-run homer to Pettis in the fourth. Bill Scherrer and Juan Berenguer pitched the last five innings for Detroit, each yielding a solo homer to Ruppert Jones, who leads the Angels in home runs with eight.
Mike Witt, supported by an average of 2.8 runs in his previous 10 starts and a winner of only one of his last six, pitched his first complete game since April 25, allowing just three hits, including a two-run homer by Lou Whitaker in the sixth.
Witt has permitted three runs or less in eight of his 11 starts, but his inconsistency is measured by a 3-5 record and the intangible burden of last year’s 15 wins and perfect game.
It was anticipated that Witt, at 24 and in his fifth season, would own 1985.
“You win 15 games and people expect more of you, including Mike and myself,” Angel Manager Gene Mauch said.
“I think that he’s probably been putting some pressure on himself, and we’ve been kind of worried that he’d fall into the rut of wondering what’s going to happen next, when are they going to score some runs for me. This should obliterate that.”
In increasing their Western Division lead over Kansas City to two games and dropping Detroit 5 1/2 back of Toronto in the East, the Angels gave Witt the uncharacteristic luxury of an early cushion.
Boone made it 2-0 and ultimately emerged with a .258 average, having hit .361 over the last 20 games. He was at .159 in early May when he went to a spread stance that eliminated excess body movement, putting the emphasis entirely on his hands.
Boone said it was a move he wanted to make 10 years ago but lacked the support he has received from batting coach Moose Stubing. He said his confidence is at an all-time high and he is seeing the ball better than ever. Will he hit more home runs now?
“Less,” he said, “because I’m all hands. It’s hard for me to muscle the ball.”
Less? Boone has a career home-run ratio of one every 62 at-bats. He now has 85 for his 14-year career.
“If I hang in,” he said, “maybe I can get 100.”
Pettis, who in the third inning bunted safely, stole second and ultimately scored on a ground out, said of his ensuing homer in the fourth, a high drive to the opposite field in left:
“All I was trying to do was hit it somewhere. I’ll take it when it happens, but I have no idea when I’ll do it again.”
Pettis has six career homers, an average of one every 104 at-bats. The Angels want him to hit to the opposite field, but not in the air. They sent him to Harry (The Hat) Walker over the winter to learn the rudiments of the chop, the slash, the bunt. The catalytic Pettis is hitting .250, an improvement on his .227 of last year.
“Yes,” said Mauch, smiling, “but I don’t want him to keep after the 380-foot swing. I want him to keep after the high hop and hard run.”
Jones is a different story. He hit 12 homers in a platoon role with the Tigers last year, a ratio of one every 17.9 at-bats.
His current ratio is even better. He is hitting a homer every 12.6 at-bats. He also leads the Angels in batting average (.277) and RBIs (25), though he has only 101 at-bats.
His most significant contribution, however, is that he is erasing the memory of Fred Lynn and doing it for a lot less cash and in a lot less playing time. Lynn went into Saturday night’s game between Baltimore and Oakland having been to bat 166 times. He had the same number of homers as Jones and only two more RBIs while batting .283.
Lynn, paid $1.3 million by the Angels last year, has been guaranteed $6.8 million for five years by the Orioles. Jones, who signed with the Angels as a free agent, is guaranteed only this year at an estimated $350,000. He is proving that austerity has its own rewards.
General Manager Mike Port said he had yet to hear from attorney Dick Moss regarding the Steve Rogers situation. The Angels are hopeful of signing Rogers, with the provision that he accepts a brief assignment at Edmonton. “Status quo,” Port said. . . . Juan Berenguer drew a warning from plate umpire Joe Brinkman after throwing two pitches behind the head of Bobby Grich in the eighth. It was viewed as retaliation for Grich swinging (and missing) at a 3-and-0 pitch with the Angels leading, 7-0, in the fifth. “I missed a take sign and made an etiquette faux pas,” Grich said of the 3 and 0 swing, “though I don’t think you can ever have too many runs or be too aggressive in this park.” . . . Grich said he tried to explain his mistake to Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson when Anderson came out to protest Brinkman’s warning “but he just turned and walked away.” . . . Morganna Roberts, baseball’s relentless kissing bandit, made a national TV appearance Saturday, interrupting play in the second inning to hug and kiss Lance Parrish as he stood in the batter’s box. Morganna was escorted from the park by security personnel but was not arrested. . . . Mike Witt has a 2-7 career record against Detroit. . . . Tiger Stadium’s center-field bleachers, closed since May 4 because of the obscenities chanted by the fans who roost there, will be reopened today. Rating the bleacherites, Reggie Jackson said: “I’ve heard it all, and Yankee Stadium is still the worst. Detroit and Boston are tied for second.” . . . Jack Morris, who was fighting the flu when he lost to the Angels Friday night, was excused from reporting Saturday. . . . The Angels’ Tommy John (2-4) faces Randy O’Neal in today’s series finale, to be televised by Channel 5. It the major league debut for O’Neal, who was 5-4 at Nashville before summoned to replace first baseman Mike Laga, sent to Nashville Saturday.