Into the gantlet, the pennant race and Toronto’s fickle Exhibition Stadium, Angel Manager Gene Mauch threw three more rookie pitchers Friday night.
Urbano Lugo, Pat Clements and Stewart Cliburn all lived to tell about their latest trial, an engagement in hostile territory against the streaking Toronto Blue Jays, but what they had to endure during an 8-3 Angel loss before 31,294 fans wasn’t pretty.
Lugo, 22, who supposedly has a mystery pitch--is it a forkball or is it merely wet?--was figured out in a hurry by the Blue Jays. Damaso Garcia led off the game with a double in the left-field corner, Rance Mulliniks followed with another double in the same spot, and Al Oliver lined an RBI single for a 2-0 lead. A two-run homer by Willie Upshaw in the fourth made it 4-0, and brought on the Angel bullpen.
Clements’ number came up next. The 23-year-old “situation pitcher” got into a bad one in the seventh inning, walking Garcia and losing a bunt battle to Lloyd Moseby and the AstroTurf. Clements left the game with no outs and two runners on base.
By then, the Angels had scrambled back to narrow their deficit to 4-3. Mauch then called on Cliburn, 28, who has a half-year’s worth of major league experience.
Cliburn’s assignment: Retire .312-hitting Garth Iorg, clean-up batter George Bell and designated hitter Jeff Burroughs--the heart of a lineup responsible for the hardiest record (now 60-37) in baseball.
Iorg successfully sacrificed. One out.
Bell, the Blue Jays’ home run leader with 18, connected with only air as Cliburn blew a third strike by him. Two outs.
Then, on a 1-1 delivery to Burroughs, Cliburn served up what he called “a good pitch--I got it right where I wanted it, up and in on him.”
Burroughs, too, knew the pitch was the proper one. He swung, anyway.
“You couldn’t hit a ball much worse than that one,” he said.
But, as they say, this one was just bad enough. Burrough’s weak looper to left fell in between the Angel trio of shortstop Dick Schofield, left fielder Brian Downing and center fielder Ruppert Jones, kicking up on the Exhibition Stadium artificial surface and dribbling past Jones to the warning track.
Two runs crossed home plate, the hefty Burroughs plodded into third with his sixth triple since 1979, and Toronto had broken the game open at 6-3.
“Of course, it’s discouraging,” Cliburn said. “At the time, we were behind, 4-3. I got a big strikeout on Bell and I got a good pitch in on Burroughs. He flared it out over shortstop.
“It was a clutch hit. It broke our backs.”
It also cost the Angels one game in the American League West standings. With Kansas City winning Friday, the Angels’ lead is now five games.
Mauch wasn’t taking it well. He answered most reporters’ questions staring down at the carpet in the visiting manager’s office.
“The kid did a hell of a job,” Mauch said of Cliburn. “He got every pitch to Bell exactly where he wanted it. Every single pitch. He pitched as good as anybody could pitch in that inning.”
Mauch walked away from his desk toward the door.
“I don’t want to hear nothing about the young pitchers,” he said. “I want to hear some bats ring. The pitchers, they’re fine. I want to hear some bats.”
Again, as they were in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to Dave Stieb, the Angels’ bats were muted through most of Friday’s game. Jim Clancy (7-4) and Dennis Lamp had the Angels shut out through six innings before Jones hit a two-run homer and Rod Carew lined an RBI single in the seventh.
And that was it for the Angel offense, which produced more strikeouts (nine) than hits (seven) against four Toronto pitchers. Reggie Jackson struck out three times and Juan Beniquez twice.
Angel Notes Center fielder Gary Pettis, sidelined with a wrist injury since June 30, is expected to take batting practice for the first time in a month today. “I’ve played pepper and worked a weight program with it,” Pettis said. “But I still haven’t seen how it will react in a game situation.” . . . Pettis admitted a touch of anxiety as he watched Jeff Burroughs’ game-breaking triple drop in left-center field between Brian Downing and Ruppert Jones. “I wish I could’ve been in there--not only because of that ball, but because I want to contribute again.” Pettis said. “Downing and Jones did the best they could. You never know; I could’ve been playing him (Burroughs) in a different position. It was just a very well-placed ball.” . . . Burroughs, listed generously at 6-1, 200 pounds, is not exactly built for three-base speed. In his 13-year career, Burroughs has hit more than two triples in a season only once.