Lugo Wins, 7-1; Mauch Likes It From the Start
Burdened with the memory of Friday night’s 5-4 loss to Kansas City in 14 innings, Angel Manager Gene Mauch said he was never happier than when Royal left-hander Bud Black finally delivered the first pitch of Saturday night’s game.
On that basis, of course, Mauch had to be even happier when Angel right-hander Urbano Lugo delivered the last pitch, 2 hours 46 minutes later.
Hal McRae grounded it into a force play, the final out of Lugo’s first complete game in the majors, a 7-1 win that kept the Angels three games ahead of Oakland in the American League West.
The 22-year-old Lugo, 3-1 with a 2.00 earned-run average for his four starts, walked two, struck out two and gave up seven hits, including a home run run by Frank White in the second inning.
The rebuilt Angel pitching staff, featuring four rookies and six farm products, has allowed only 39 runs in the last 16 games (an average of 2.4) and has a brilliant ERA of 2.85 over the last 37 games, lowering the team’s season ERA to a league-leading 3.44.
Asked again his impression of his babes-in-arms pitching, Mauch said: “I’m enthused about it, and the club is enthused about it. I’ve had to eat a lot of March words in June (in previous seasons), but maybe not this time.”
This spring, Mauch’s view was that the Angels boasted the finest array of young arms he had ever seen. Pitching has been carrying a club frequently maligned for a lack of it, but now the offense may be coming alive, too.
The Angels have hit .294 over the last 12 games, and Saturday night, they collected 13 hits off Black and two successors.
Gary Pettis had three singles and scored two runs. Doug DeCinces had two singles and two RBIs, one on a sacrifice fly. Reggie Jackson singled in the tying run in the sixth, and Juan Beniquez singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.
The Angels broke it open with three runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. The most significant contribution seemed to come from Brian Downing, who doubled and scored in the sixth, singled and scored in the seventh and singled in a pair of runs in the eighth.
Downing has nine hits in his last 15 at-bats after collecting just 4 in his previous 61. He has raised his average from .192 to .220, but it couldn’t be ascertained whether he has also raised his spirits.
Downing, for reasons known only to himself, has not been talking to the media.
Asked Saturday night if he would relent, he shook his head and said: “Nope. Who gives a bleep what a .200 hitter has to say, anyway.”
Speaking of what Downing’s bat means to his team, Mauch said: “I don’t know if you can measure it. He’s been one of the leaders for as long as I’ve been associated with the club. I mean, it’s not only his bat. His spirit, drive and enthusiasm is infectious. It’s just hard when you go like he did for 60 at-bats. It’s hard on us, but it’s 10 times harder on him.”
Hard? Mauch said the Friday night loss was as hard for him to shake as any in his 23-year managerial career.
“I was never any gladder (sic) for the first pitch of a game to be thrown,” he said, “and that goes for as long as I’ve been around. Last night’s game laid on my gut all night and all day. You play enough of those (the Angels are 5-1 in extra-inning games) and some are bound to get away. That one did, and it wasn’t any fun.”
Mauch said he was not surprised, however, that his team rebounded, because “it had done the same thing two or three other times this year.”
Lugo made this one easier, after which he said, in his limited English, that he is constantly relaxed now and was confident he could go seven or eight innings. He has now defeated the Royals once and the Chicago White Sox twice.
Said Mauch: “His ability is obvious, but he’s also a great competitor. His velocity in the ninth looked to be as great as it was at the start.”
Nevertheless, Mauch had relief ace Donnie Moore warming up in the eighth and ninth innings, despite a six-run lead and the fact that Moore pitched 2 innings Friday night, when he yielded a game-tying, eighth-inning homer to McRae.
“I think Donnie wanted to get last night out of his mind as much as I did,” Mauch said. “He told me as much before the game.”
Said Moore: “Of course, I wanted to come right back, but not to prove anything. I don’t have anything to prove. Besides, what I do one day is forgotten when I come to the park the next. I just love to pitch. It’s fun for me. That why I wanted right back.”
Moore said he was not surprised to be warming up with a six-run lead because the Royals had two on in the eighth and another in the ninth. Can he now come back today if needed?
“I felt good tonight,” he said. “Tomorrow may be a different story, but I felt good tonight.”
So did his relieved manager.
Angel Notes Mike Witt defended Manager Gene Mauch’s decision to remove him with one out, no one on and the Angels leading, 3-1 ,in the eighth inning Friday night. Pat Clements gave up an ensuing double to George Brett, then Donnie Moore yielded a game-tying homer to Hal McRae. The Royals won, 5-4, in 14 innings. . . . “I was tired from the sixth inning on,” Witt said. “I was getting outs, but I don’t know how. I certainly wasn’t going to argue. I mean, what’s that, only the third time Donnie Moore hasn’t held a lead. You can’t argue with 15 saves.” . . . Witt made 119 pitches and went to the clubhouse after both the fifth and sixth innings to apply a heat lubricant to his tightening elbow and shoulder. “He’d made a lot of tough pitches, and our bullpen has been too good not to make a move,” Mauch said. . . . The Friday night game went 4 hours 50 minutes, second longest of the Angel season. The longest, 5:04, was on June 4 at Baltimore. The Angels have played four games of 4:46 or longer this season and went into Saturday’s gave having played a total of 12 hours 48 minutes in their last three games. . . . Gary Pettis, who threw a runner out at home after McRae’s homer in the eighth inning Friday night, has nine throwing assists. . . . With Saturday’s win, the Angels are 20-13 on the road, 9-2 on artificial surface and have won eight straight decisions from left-handers, improving their overall record against left-handers to 12-6.