Blyleven Again Is Angels’ Nemesis
Because of the Cleveland Indians’ inability to get waivers, the Angels have no hope of acquiring Bert Blyleven for another 30 days at least.
They had virtually no hope against him on Monday night, either.
Only a questionable decision by an umpire deprived Blyleven of a shutout as he allowed only four hits in pitching the Indians to a 2-1 win before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 24,218 that included many of Blyleven’s relatives and neighbors from nearby Villa Park.
The Angels had won four straight, including a three-game sweep at Chicago in which they came alive to collect 35 hits, 17 Sunday. But Blyleven picked up where he left off against them last Wednesday night at Cleveland.
He allowed only three hits in that 2-0 victory, retiring the last 24 Angels in order.
He made it 27 with a flawless first inning Monday night, stretched the string to 31 before yielding a one-out single to Jerry Narron in the third, then ultimately retired the last seven Angels in order. That gave him his fourth straight victory, a span in which he has allowed only 3 runs in 36 innings.
Now 7-6 on the season, the 34-year-old right-hander struck out 10 as he improved his career record against the Angels to 23-11 and registered his 202nd victory.
“I don’t know what our hitters thought, but I thought he was much better tonight than the last time,” Angel Manager Gene Mauch said. “He’s got a sinking fastball now in addition to his other pitches and he gets a lot of soft outs with it.
“The toughest part for us was wasting the pitching we got. That was a shame. Blyleven has just been too tough for us a couple times.”
In reducing the Angels’ lead over Chicago in the American League West to 1 1/2 games, Blyleven hung a tough defeat on Jim Slaton for the second time in five days.
Slaton lost to Blyleven at Cleveland on a bases-loaded single by George Vukovich in the sixth inning.
This time, he yielded only five hits in seven-plus innings, but Joe Carter’s fifth home run in the eighth inning snapped a 1-1 tie and saddled Slaton (5-7) with his fourth straight loss.
Until the Carter homer, Slaton had allowed just two hits after a game-opening bunt single by Brett Butler, who reached third on a walk and sacrifice, then scored on Brook Jacoby’s fly to right.
Blyleven protected that thin lead until the seventh, which Rod Carew opened with a single. Then, with Carew running, Juan Beniquez collected a check-swing double to right, where Vukovich’s attempt to field it near the box seats resulted in a fan’s interference.
Carew had not yet reached third, but umpire Jim McKean ruled he would have scored, prompting the ejection of Vukovich during a long argument by the Indians.
The livid Blyleven ultimately went back to work, maintained his composure, forced the Angels to strand Beniquez, and emerged a winner.
Blyleven had gone into the game aware that the Indians’ latest attempt to secure American League waivers on him, clearing the way for a possible trade, had failed.
The waivers issued June 17 in the wake of the inter-league trading deadline closed Monday. The league office notified the Indians that Detroit, Chicago and Kansas City had put in claims--all seemingly designed to prevent Blyleven from being traded to either of the division leaders, Toronto or the Angels.
The Indians, who will now withdraw the waivers, must wait 30 days before they can issue new ones.
“They told me today that they’ll try again in 30 days,” Blyleven said, “but if those clubs are going to claim now, what makes the Indians think they won’t claim me again in 30 days?”
Blyleven has asked the Indians to trade him to a West Coast team. He is eligible for free agency when his contract expires at the end of the 1986 season, and he already has rejected Cleveland’s offer of a contract extension.
Faced with the reality of Blyleven’s position, the Indians have been attempting to trade him before he becomes a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the majors, the last five with the same team) next year and gains the right of approval over a trade.
The Angels are one of several clubs with which Cleveland had negotiated, but the Angels had remained reluctant to meet the asking price of two or three top prospects.
Angel General Manager Mike Port reiterated Monday that he was back at square one in his talks with Cleveland counterpart Joe Klein. He implied that the recent success of the Angels’ rebuilt pitching staff tempered any disappointment over the Monday waiver development.
“On the one hand,” Port said, “you’re always looking to improve the club. On the other, we have to be delighted the way our pitching has developed.”
Blyleven sat at his locker before Monday night’s game and shook his head when asked if this represented a new disappointment in his bid to leave Cleveland.
“No,” he said. “I let it bother me a little too much earlier in the season, but I have no control over my destiny right now. If they want me to stay in Cleveland, I’ll stay there for another 1 1/2 years. Then I want to finish on the West Coast. I’ll have 17 years in, and I want to see my family grow up.
“I feel capable of pitching five or six more years, and I want to spend them at home.”
The Indians will miss him. They have won only 7 of their last 27 games, 5 of the wins belonging to Blyleven.