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Gibson and Tigers Take Some Batting Practice Against Angels, 14-8

Times Staff Writer

The Detroit Tigers obviously own Kirk McCaskill. If they don’t, Kirk Gibson will happily contribute a down payment.

Gibson powered a pair of two-run homers off the 24-year-old rookie, who went only 3 innings in a 14-8 loss to the Tigers Tuesday night.

Gibson, who has 25 homers and 82 RBIs, connected first off McCaskill in a five-run second inning, then struck again in a five-run fourth, the last three of those runs coming on a Chet Lemon homer off D.W. Smith, McCaskill’s successor.

The Tigers are 2-0 in four meetings with McCaskill, collecting nine home runs and 21 earned runs in 24 innings. Gibson, who doubled off Smith and singled off Luis Sanchez to total 11 bases and five RBIs, has six hits in 11 at-bats against McCaskill with four home runs and six RBIs.

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Reggie Jackson tried to emulate Gibson in this one, driving in three runs with his 21st and 22nd homers of the season, but the suddenly edgy Angels were never a factor, trailing by margins of 5-0, 10-3 and 14-5 en route to a loss that sliced their Western Division lead over Kansas City to 1 1/2 games.

In a crowded clubhouse later, Angel Manager Gene Mauch angrily told a TV crew to quiet down or get out, while Jackson spat epithets at a wire-service reporter who merely asked him if he could ask him about his home runs. The emotions have been building at a pace comparable to the Angels’ earned-run average.

Consider: The Angels have given up 10 or more runs in runs in five of the last 13 games. They have managed to split the last 18 despite a 5.13 ERA and a yield of 33 homers. They are 22-23 since the All-Star break with a 4.90 ERA.

Is this the way pennants are won?

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“It doesn’t look like the formula that’s been used for years,” Mauch conceded, “but whoever won that first one (pennant) didn’t know what the formula was.

“Concerned? I’ll only be concerned if the overall pitching doesn’t keep us in first place. But it will. We’ll win the game we’re supposed to win and some we aren’t.”

Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson suggested that Mauch may have reason for concern. Citing the recent problems of McCaskill and Ron Romanick, he said:

“Like any youngsters, they’re not used to pitching this many innings. They’ve lost a little bite off their fastballs. The other thing is that you don’t throw the same at this time of the year when you know you have to win. There’s nothing the Angels can do. These are the kids you danced with. You have to pray they can straighten themselves out.”

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McCaskill is 9-10, having lost his last three starts after winning 9 of 12. He’s allowed 25 runs in his last 26 innings. He walked six and was charged with six hits and nine runs in his 3 innings Tuesday night.

The key to Mauch’s thinking, were the six walks and McCaskill’s failure to catch a double play relay from Dick Schofield in the second. The shortstop drew the error, but the responsibility was McCaskill’s, Mauch said. A five-run inning should have been a one-run inning and “a whole new ball game,” said Mauch, who added:

“He has to call for the throw or push Rodney (Carew) out of the way. He (McCaskill) was perfect on that play in spring training. He’s one of the best athletes in the organization but he doesn’t capitalize on it all the time. He lost this game the way rookies lose games. The Tigers didn’t beat him as bad as he beat himself.”

Schofield had taken a throw from Carew on a ground ball hit by Darrell Evans with the bases loaded. McCaskill said he took off for first base with his head down, thinking Carew couldn’t get back.

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“I ran right into Rod,” McCaskill said, “and my momentum didn’t allow me to reach back for the throw. I was embarrassed and lost my composure.”

Two runs scored on the error, and Gibson followed with his first homer. Gibson hit his second after a walk to Evans in the fourth. With Stewart Cliburn still sidelined, Smith and Sanchez couldn’t contain the Tigers after McCaskill left.

“It’s not the pennant race,” McCaskill said of his recent problems. “It’s not the pressure. I’m just not concentrating as well as I did earlier. I’m not as consistent. You have to make quality pitches to a good hitter like Gibson, and I haven’t done it with enough consistency.”

Gibson offered no clue for his success against McCaskill except to say that he goes up looking for straight pitches over the plate and seems to get them.

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The last month of Detroit’s disappointing season represents a salary drive for last year’s World Series hero, who is eligible for free agency when the season ends. There’s that, and the chance to be a spoiler.

“I enjoy beating California,” Gibson said. “They’re in first place, and I don’t want to make it easy for them. There’s more incentive. It’ll be the same when we play Toronto and New York.”

Angel Notes

The home runs raised Reggie Jackson’s career total to 525 . . . The Angels led the American League with an earned-run average of 3.37 on July 14. It’s now 3.87. . . . Third baseman Doug DeCinces, who had planned to return to Los Angeles for an injection and hospitalization if there was no relief from the stiffness and pain in his lower back Tuesday, took batting and fielding practice and said: “This is the best I’ve felt in some time. I’m not 100% ready to go to the field, but I was swinging the bat without pain. If there’s this much improvement tomorrow, Gene (Mauch) might put me in (the lineup), though with an off-day Thurday he might give me until Friday.” . . . Mauch said he is ready to use DeCinces whenever DeCinces is ready, but it would probably be as a designated hitter first. “I’m not ready to say to Jack Howell, ‘nice going, see ya later,’ Mauch said. . . . Rod Carew, who has moved into 13th place on the all-time hit list this season, got the 2,384th single of his career in the first inning to break a sixth-place tie with Tris Speaker. . . . Reggie Jackson’s two home runs moved him past Harmon Killebrew and into 16th place on the all-time RBI list with 1,586. . . . D.W. Smith has faced 10 batters and given up a home run, double and two singles in two appearances since his recall from Edmonton. . . . The crowd of 14,123 was the smallest here since April 22 of last year. . . . Tests confirmed that Angel and Ram broadcaster Bob Starr suffered a mild heart attack while playing golf in New York last Friday. Starr is in improved condition at New Rochelle Hospital and will be moved out of intensive care today, an Angel spokesman said. He is expected to be hospitalized for two more weeks. . . . John Candelaria (3-1) faces Jack Morris (14-8) in tonight’s series finale.

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