Pitching in Arlington Stadium for the first time since his perfect game on the final day of the 1984 season, Mike Witt demonstrated Wednesday night that he is perfectly game.
He delivered 156 pitches and walked seven in a battle with his control, but also allowed only six hits and two runs before his departure in the 10th inning of a game in which the Angels defeated the Texas Rangers, 3-2, in the 11th.
Bobby Grich won it with a one-out single off Dave Schmidt after Brian Downing opened the 11th with a single and took second on pinch-hitter Rob Wilfong's sacrifice bunt.
The win went to Donnie Moore (5-3), who retired four straight batters in another display of the form expected to earn him a berth on the American League All-Star team.
This is how it has been for Witt in a season of limited support. It is now evident that he can't afford to be too much less than perfect. He has allowed 3 runs or less in 13 of 18 starts, but the Angels have totaled only 65 runs, an average of 3.5.
On a night when he also struck out seven and was unscored on after the second, his record remained an unrewarding 6-6.
"He pitched as hard as a man can pitch," Manager Gene Mauch said. "He showed me as much as a man can show me.
"If he keeps pitching like this, it will balance out. He'll end up on the plus side, and we'll all be happy."
Mauch was happy as it was. His concern is for the team, and the team is doing quite nicely.
As a mark of their continued good pitching, the Angels are 16-7 in games decided by one run and 6-1 in extra-inning games. The rebuilt pitching staff has allowed only 57 runs in the last 23 games, an average of 2.5. The earned-run average for the last 41 games is a brilliant 2.84.
The Angels' most significant numbers as they now return to Anaheim to open a string of 22 games with Boston, Milwaukee and Toronto are found in the standings. They are 10 games over .500 and have a three-game lead in the West.
First on the Fourth?
Mauch laughed and said:
"We used to think about that when we played a 154-game league schedule, but it doesn't seem to mean as much when you're playing 162 games.
"The only thing I can say is that being first is a hell of a lot better than being second."
Mauch is aware, of course, that on this date a year ago the Angels led the division by two games before ultimately finishing in a second-place tie, three games behind Kansas City.
The difference with the 1985 team, however, is in the obvious stability of a pitching staff that leads the league with a stylish ERA of 3.37. The emergence of his young pitchers has served to strengthen Mauch's conviction that his team can play with anyone, anywhere.
Of his current staff, Mauch said: "This is the first time I've had a staff on which all 10 pitchers are going good at the same time."
Bidding for his fourth straight win, Witt retired the side in the first, stretching to 30 the number he had retired in a row here. Then he walked the first two batters in the second before a single by Bobby Jones and double by Don Slaught provided two runs.
The Rangers then had at least one runner on in every inning through the sixth, after which Witt pitched three hitless innings until Wayne Tolleson opened the 10th with a single. A two-out walk to Buddy Bell convinced Mauch that 156 pitches were enough.
Moore, carrying a 1.49 ERA and 15 saves in 31 appearances, came on to retire Pete O'Brien on a fly to left, then returned to gain the win with a perfect 10th.
The Angels were restricted to nine hits and grounded into five double plays. Reggie Jackson hit into two, and responded to the taunts of fans behind the Angel dugout by spitting in their direction as he walked down the steps after grounding into a double play in the ninth.
The Angels had cut the Texas lead to 2-1 in the third on a double by Juan Beniquez and single by Rod Carew, now within 29 hits of 3,000 and one RBI of 1,000.
They tied it in the sixth on a single by Downing and double by Mike Brown, then loaded the bases with no outs only to have Greg Harris replace starter Mike Mason and close the inning with the score still tied.
Schmidt replaced Harris in the ninth and got two more double plays before Grich delivered his game-winner, ultimately ending another long game that began only after a 42-minute rain delay.
Geoff Zahn, on the disabled list since April 30 with tendinitis in his left shoulder, threw without pain for 40 minutes Wednesday, will throw on the sideline again Saturday and expects to pitch a simulated game Tuesday or Wednesday. Zahn said he now expects to be ready when--and if--play resumes after the All-Star break. "I've thrown three times at 50% and three times at 75%," Zahn said. "I was about all out today. Unless something weird happens, I expect to be ready after the All-Star break. That way I'll have about three simulated games. It's almost like spring training right now. I'm just trying to build up endurance and work on my control." . . . Who would he replace in the Angel rotation? "Those things have a way of working themselves out," Manager Gene Mauch said. . . . Gary Pettis, sidelined by the sprained left wrist he suffered in Kansas City Sunday, said of his Wednesday condition: "Not bad, not good." He will see a hand specialist after the team returns to Anaheim today, after which the club may reach a decision on whether to put Pettis on the disabled list and activate Darrell Miller. . . . Carl Lewis, a winner of four Olympic gold medals, will sing the national anthem before tonight's 6 o'clock game with Boston at Anaheim Stadium. The Angels expect a crowd of about 60,000, with only a few general admission tickets remaining.