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Witt Leaves in 8th, and Royals Win in 14th, 5-4

Times Staff Writer

The decision to start Mike Witt 24 hours ahead of schedule Friday night worked well for Gene Mauch. His abrupt removal of Witt in the eighth inning of the series opener against Kansas City wasn’t nearly so successful.

The Angels led, 3-1. There was one out and no one on. Witt had delivered 119 pitches, striking out 9, walking 1 and scattering 7 hits, including a fourth-inning homer by Darryl Motley.

Lonnie Smith had opened the eighth by hitting a soft fly to right for an easy out. Left-handed-hitting George Brett was next. Brett had singled twice and walked against Witt, who didn’t seem happy when Mauch dispatched pitching coach Marcel Lachemann to the mound.

The call went to left-hander Pat Clements, who promptly yielded a double to Brett, forcing a call for right-hander Donnie Moore, who promptly yielded a home run to pinch-hitter Hal McRae.

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The game was now tied, 3-3, and destined for extra innings, which is what Mauch may have been looking for all along.

His team was undefeated in five previous extra-inning games. This time, however, they paid a price, failing to take advantage of Oakland and Chicago losses as they lost, 5-4, in 14 innnings.

Doug Corbett, the fifth Angel pitcher, was the loser. Summoned to pitch the 14th, Corbett issued a one-out walk to Steve Balboni. Pinch-runner John Wathan took second on a ground-out and scored on a two-out single by Greg Pryor, the 17th Kansas City hit.

Dan Quisenberry worked the last three innings to win it, although he yielded a 13th-inning run on two infield singles and a looping single to right-center by Bobby Grich.

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The Royals tied it again in the bottom of the 13th on a leadoff double by Jim Sundberg and a two-out triple by Smith, both off Stewart Cliburn, who had escaped a bases-loaded threat in the 11th.

Cliburn ultimately pitched three innings in relief of Moore, who had not allowed a run in the 11 innings of his last eight appearances but had worked three innings of an extra-inning game against Cleveland just three nights before.

He ultimately pitched 2 innings in this one, his 30th appearance in 71 games, surviving four other hits after the McRae homer ended his latest shutout string, as well as Witt’s bid for his fourth straight victory.

Mauch, responding to his team’s day off Thursday and the opportunity to pitch Witt with a normal four days of rest, said before it started that he decided to juggle his pitching order on the Thursday night flight here.

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Urbano Lugo, scheduled to pitch Friday night, will now pitch tonight, replacing Witt. Jim Slaton, scheduled to pitch Sunday, will be moved back a day to pitch Monday night in Texas. Ron Romanick, who beat Kansas City, 1-0, in Anaheim, will be moved up a day to pitch the series finale here.

“If we’d kept it like it was,” Mauch said, “with everybody getting an extra day because of the off-day, Witt would have missed Texas and Romanick would have missed Kansas City. It didn’t make sense. Now, Witt can make four starts before the All-Star game, and the others can make three, with all of them getting their normal rest.”

Witt responded to an assignment that seemed to end prematurely. The game ultimately spanned 4 hours 46 minutes, after which Mauch paced the clubhouse and said to Angel publicist Tim Mead, “Obviously, all those wonderful things that have happened to (rookies) Clements and Cliburn don’t happen every time.”

Of Witt, Mauch said only, “He had thrown a tough 119 pitches, and my bullpen has been too good.”

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The Angels, who had scored 54 runs in their last 10 games to create the feeling that their offense was coming alive, wasted 13 hits against Bret Saberhagen, Joe Beckwith and the ubiquitous Quisenberry.

They scored only one run over the final eight innings, however, after building a 3-1 lead against Saberhagen, who had allowed only one run while winning three previous decisions from the Angels.

Saberhagen, the second-year right-hander from Reseda’s Cleveland High, had stretched a shutout string against the Angels to 25 innings when Daryl Sconiers homered to open the second, his first home run since Sept. 16.

Motley tied it in the fourth, but Rod Carew singled in a run to make it 2-1 in the fifth. Aggressive base-running by Ruppert Jones, who had singled with one out in the sixth, led to a third run and the 3-1 lead that Witt nursed into the eighth, when Mauch made his pivotal decision.

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Angel Notes

Manager Gene Mauch said his decision to move up Mike Witt and move back Urbano Lugo had nothing to do with the fact that Lugo and Juan Beniquez missed the team’s charter flight to Kansas City Thursday afternoon. Beniquez said he had a dead battery when he tried to drive Lugo to Anaheim Stadium, where they planned to take the team bus to Ontario Airport. Beniquez said it was the first time in his 17 years that he had missed a team flight. He was not fined, but he and Lugo were forced to pay for their commercial flight Friday. Beniquez said he paid for Lugo’s ticket, as well as his own. . . . The game-tying homer by Hal McRae was his first ever as a pinch-hitter. Now relegated to spot service, McRae has hit four homers in his last 11 games. Four of his last five hits have been home runs. . . . With Dick Schofield batting .193, Craig Gerber made his fifth straight start at shortstop for the Angels and had two hits in four at-bats, before Reggie Jackson struck out pinch-hitting in the ninth. Gerber now has 7 hits in his last 16 at-bats. . . . Lugo (2-1) will face Bud Black (5-7) in a game to be televised by Channel 5 tonight.


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