You’d think a manager suffering through his team’s longest losing streak of the season would be busy worrying about Murphy’s Law--everything that can go wrong, will. But not Gene Mauch.
In fact, the ever-optimistic Angel manager was talking about “Mauch’s Law” before Tuesday’s game with the A’s.
“I honestly had gotten to the point where I didn’t think we could lose four games in a row,” he said. “We have so many ways to win. I’m really surprised whenever anything goes wrong.”
Life has been full of little surprises for Mauch lately, and Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum it was, to steal a phrase from Gomer Pyle, “surprise, surprise, surprise.” And all of them were of the unpleasant variety.
Mike Davis added the final blow, hitting a 3-2 pitch from Angel reliever Donnie Moore into the right-field corner to score Dave Kingman in the 10th inning and lift the A’s to a 5-4 win in front of 24,186 as the Angels found ways to lose their fifth straight.
Oakland scored four times in the third inning with the help of Brian Downing’s throwing error and the first of three wild pitches by starter Mike Witt, but the Angels scored twice in the fourth and twice in eighth to send the game into extra innings.
It merely prolonged the agony for Mauch, though. The only consolation was that he didn’t have to watch this one from the dugout. He was ejected for arguing a ball call in the fourth inning and got all of his surprises via video in the clubhouse.
Before the game, Mauch was lamenting that the Toronto Blue Jays had a great deal of luck along with solid performances to win four straight from the Angels at Toronto, but quickly added that “good luck and good play usually go together.”
The same can be said for misfortune and misplays. And the Angels proved that thesis in the third inning.
Witt issued a one-out walk to Donnie Hill, and Hill promptly broke for second. Angel second baseman Rob Wilfong did, too, but Alfredo Griffin rolled a ground ball right through the spot Wilfong had vacated. Bad luck.
After Dwayne Murphy singled to left to score Hill and move Griffin around to third, Bruce Bochte grounded a ball off Witt’s foot that kangaroo-hopped into left field. Griffin scored and then Murphy continued to second when left fielder Downing, who has just three errors in the last 478 games, threw wildly past third. Bad luck and bad play.
Murphy scored, and Bochte moved to third when Kingman flied to the wall in dead center, and then Bochte scored to make it 4-0 on Witt’s wild pitch. Bad play again.
You get the idea.
Don Sutton, making his 660th career start (tops for active pitchers and sixth on the all-time list) went 5 innings for the A’s and yielded a pair of runs in the fourth.
The Angels cut the A’s lead in half, but after the bottom of the inning Oakland had a 1-0 advantage in managers.
Line-drive singles by Juan Beniquez and Reggie Jackson, sandwiched around a perfect bunt single by Ruppert Jones, produced the Angels’ first run, and Jones scored when Downing grounded into a double play.
In the A’s half of the inning, Hill laced a two-out double and then Griffin struck out but was safe at first on Witt’s second wild pitch. With Murphy batting, Griffin stole second on a pitch catcher Bob Boone obviously thought was strike three.
Mauch came out to argue, which, of course, one isn’t supposed to do when balls and strikes are concerned. Home plate umpire Dan Morrison exchanged a few words with Mauch before nonchalantly waving him out of the game. Mauch calmly walked off the field after a rhubarb that rated zero on a scale of 1 to 10. It was only the second time this season he’s been ejected.
“It was automatic,” Mauch admitted, “I walked up and told him, ‘I know I’m gone, but I just can’t stand to watch you umpire in this park.’ ”
The Angels managed to chase Sutton in the sixth, but they stranded runners on first and third when A’s reliever Steve Ontiveros came on to strike out Grich and get Wilfong to ground into a forceout to end the inning.
The Angels finally got a break of their own in the eighth. Jones ripped a one-out double off the wall in left and scored on Jackson’s second RBI-single of the night, trimming the A’s lead to 4-3. Downing, facing Oakland’s ace rookie reliever Jay Howell, hit a sharp grounder to second that looked like an inning-ending double play, but the ball hit the heal of Hill’s glove and bounced into right for a hit.
Bobby Grich followed with a single to left to score Jackson and tie the game.
Did Mauch think that the Angels had finally broken the spell at this point?
“I thought we’d win it from the moment I woke up this morning until Davis got that base hit,” he said.
Left-hander Geoff Zahn, on the disabled list since April 30 with tendinitis of the shoulder, threw 79 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday and said his shoulder felt fine afterward. Zahn, who admitted that he could possibly be activated by Saturday (which is rookie Tony Mack’s next turn), said the way his shoulder feels today will be a better indicator of how soon he will be ready. Angel Manager Gene Mauch sounded guardedly optimistic, though. “He threw 90 pitches in Boston and he threw great, but then he knew right away something was still wrong,” Mauch said.