In the lexicon of the game, the Angels’ 11-1 rout of the Detroit Tigers on Monday was a laugher.
Jim Slaton, who had a 5-10 record and had lost seven of his last eight decisions, needed it.
The Angels, who had lost three of four at New York and had been accused by Don Baylor of lacking a killer instinct, needed it.
They got it by scoring nine runs on seven hits off Frank Tanana and Aurelio Lopez in the fourth inning, which George Hendrick capped with a three-run homer.
Slaton retired the first 13 Tigers in order and allowed only six hits before Donnie Moore, looking for a tuneup inning, got the final three outs.
Said Angel Manager Gene Mauch: “If you’re going to make a misnomer of something, you might as well make a misnomer out of Labor Day. That’s the first easy one we’ve had.”
It enabled the Angels to maintain a 2 1/2-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. Mauch reflected on the standings and said: “The best break we could get was to have them (the Royals) lose three in Texas while we were losing three of four in New York. No one would have guts enough even to ask for that.”
Of the killer instinct issue, which the Angels may have erased as they sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth, veteran infielder Bobby Grich said: “A killer instinct and aggressiveness comes with confidence. We don’t have enough guys hitting well right now to be as confident as the Yankees. This will bring us back tomorrow with more of a killer instinct, but whether we can sustain it or not, I don’t know.”
Said Mauch: “We’ve gotten things started, but haven’t sustained them. Maybe this will help turn it around.”
The 14-hit attack was characteristic of how it has gone for the Angels in a season that they are devoid of a .300 hitter and the team average of .248 is 13th in a 14-team league.
“The key to our season,” Grich said, “is that Mauch has been an expert at using the entire roster. We talked about it in spring training. We finally have some depth. We finally can go to the farm system for help.”
Jack Howell, leading the Pacific Coast League in hitting when recalled for a second time Aug. 12, has 14 RBIs in 22 games and 11 in the last 15, which he’s started in place of the injured Doug DeCinces, who remains sidelined. Howell’s two-run single in the fourth turned a 2-0 lead to 4-0.
Outfielder Rufino Linares, who had hit a pair of game-winning homers while going 2 for 9 during a July recall, returned from Edmonton on Monday and ignited the nine-run fourth with a double, his second hit of the game. He went to bat a second time in the fourth and drove in a run with a ground out.
Mauch, who started eight right-handed hitters against Tanana (Howell being the exception), said of Linares: “I gave serious consideration to going to the airport this morning to get him. He didn’t land until 10:40 and didn’t get in uniform until 15 minutes before the first pitch.”
The Angels also got clutch hits from:
--Hendrick, who was 3 for 28 with the Angels when he singled in his first at-bat in the fourth, then delivered his second American League homer as the inning’s 11th batter.
--Bob Boone, who doubled in the first of the nine runs and later singled twice, reversing a slide that had seen his average slip to .240.
--Gary Pettis, whose strike out ratio was up to one every 3.25 at-bats when he tripled in the first run off Tanana in the third and singled in the fourth.
Tanana, 7-13 and 5-6 with the Angels, was charged with six runs. All five of the batters he faced in the fourth reached base. Lopez faced eight batters, five of whom reached base. There were seven hits, two walks and one hit batter. It was the biggest Angel inning since mid-July of 1982, when they scored 10 runs in a single innings against both Cleveland and New York in a six-day span.
Slaton responded with one of his strongest games of an inconsistent season.
“I’ve lost some games that I pitched well enough to win,” he said, “and those compound a bad season, which I’ll be the first to admit is what I’ve had. I’m trying to get in a groove again and help the club in September.”
The 35-year-old veteran had gone 5 innings against Detroit in his last appearance, allowing only one run. The Angels juggled their rotation at the outset of this trip, skipping Slaton in New York to give him another shot at the Tigers.
“You never know if it’s going to work out,” Mauch said, “but we were looking for a repeat (by Slaton) when we rearranged the rotation.”
The Angels got what they were looking for, including some killer instinct.
Doug DeCinces, still experiencing stiffness in his lower back, said that if the condition persists through today he will return to Los Angeles for another cortisone injection and a two- or three-day hospitalization that would sideline him for the remainder of the trip. “It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I can help out by moving fielders around, but I’m not ready to become a coach.” . . . Darrell Evans’ 30th home run accounted for the only run off Jim Slaton. Evans is only the seventh player in baseball history to hit 30 or more homers with three teams--Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit.. . . A complete game by Slaton would have been only the Angels’ second in the last 24 games and fourth in the last 39. It would also have been Slaton’s first since April 27. He gave up two hits opening the ninth, then yielded to Donnie Moore. “I would have liked to finish to give the bullpen a rest,” Slaton said, “but I was definitely tired.” . . . Said Manager Gene Mauch: “It worked out perfectly because Donnie wanted an inning.” . . . The Angels’ Kirk McCaskill (9-9) faces Dan Petry (13-11) tonight.