Don Sutton made the 20-mile drive up the Santa Ana Freeway from his Laguna Niguel home to Anaheim Stadium Friday afternoon, and he brought all the trappings of home with him.
“My tranquility base,” Sutton explained, putting a tape player and a case of country and western cassettes in his locker.
Then he pulled a bottle of his favorite Napa Valley Cabernet out of his athletic bag.
“To celebrate or commiserate,” he said.
And then he pulled out two more bottles.
“To celebrate big or commiserate big,” he said, smiling.
A few hours later, Sutton made his debut as an Angel, and it was definitely worth a three-bottle celebration. He allowed just two hits--a pair of doubles--in seven innings of work to pick up his 294th career win as the Angels beat Texas, 2-0, before 25,398 fans at Anaheim Stadium. Former Dodger Charlie Hough (14-15) went the distance for Texas.
Reggie Jackson provided the margin of victory with a towering two-run homer in the fourth inning, his 23rd homer of the year and the 526th of his career.
Stewart Cliburn, pitching for the first time since he injured his rib cage Aug. 30, yielded two hits but escaped the eighth inning without allowing a run. And Donnie Moore pitched the ninth to extend his club-record number of saves to 27.
The win kept the Angels two games behind Kansas City, a 5-2 winner at Oakland, in the American League West.
Sutton has wanted to return to Southern California for a long time, but the Angels, whose starting pitching has been looking a bit finished in recent weeks, might be as happy as Sutton’s family to have him home after his acquisition from Oakland on Tuesday.
Manager Gene Mauch was temporarily at a loss for words.
“Don Sutton,” Mauch said slowly. “I’ve stood in admiration of the man for the better part of 20 years when he was doing this to me. It was no different tonight, now that he’s doing it for me.
“It was really an eerie feeling after having battled against him for so long and then doing battle with him. It was eerie.”
Sutton, at 40 the seasoned veteran that he is, admitted that he was feeling a little dreamy himself this week.
“Exciting isn’t the right word to describe it,” Sutton said Friday afternoon. “It’s been a good week, a very good week. I’m home now, and a good performance tonight would make everything perfect.
“I’ve been thinking about it (his first start as an Angel) a lot beforehand. It’s not your average run-of-the-mill start. But it won’t make any difference when I go out there. When I get in between the little white lines, I’ll be in my bubble, and everything will be all right.”
The Rangers didn’t come close to bursting his bubble this time around.
Sutton, who has yielded one walk or less in 14 outings this year and who had walked just 23 batters in his previous 141 innings, was fighting his control early Friday night.
Sutton walked Pete O’Brien in the first, Oddibe McDowell in the third and O’Brien again to open the fourth.
The third walk probably would have cost him a run, but former Angel Ellis Valentine bounced into a double play before Gary Ward ripped a double to left-center for the Rangers’ first hit of the game. Center fielder Gary Pettis then made a fine running catch on Don Slaught’s looper over shortstop to end the inning, and Sutton became the newest Angel pitcher to look to the heavens and give thanks for having Pettis behind him.
The Angels gave Sutton a margin to work with in the bottom of the fourth. Rod Carew led off with a shot down the right-field line and then ran through third-base coach Moose Stubing’s stop sign to beat the relay for a triple. Jackson hit a 3-and-2 fastball off Hough deep to right-center--far enough for Jackson to stand at home plate and admire it until it disappeared--and the Angels were ahead, 2-0.
Did Jackson know it was gone the minute he hit it?
“Uh-huh,” he said, looking up from his post-game Chinese dinner. “Didn’t you?”
The Angels had a chance to chase Hough in the sixth. Carew singled with one out, and Hough walked Jackson (on four knuckleballs this time) and then walked Brian Downing to load the bases. But Doug DeCinces popped to short center, and Bobby Grich flied to right to end the inning.
Sutton, comfortably inside his “bubble” by this point, retired nine Rangers in a row until Slaught doubled to left in the seventh.
Then Mauch decided that Sutton, who hadn’t pitched in nine days, had done enough.
“I wasn’t tired physically,” Sutton said, “but my control was slipping a little.”
Was this game, in fact, worth a three-bottle celebration?
“One’s for me,” Sutton said, “and the other two are to share. Reggie’s welcome to one and Pettis can have the other.”
And the rest of the Angels would like to sincerely welcome Sutton home.
Manager Gene Mauch was sitting in the Angel dugout during batting practice Friday, marveling at the milestones that have been achieved this year in baseball. “A guy gets 4,192 hits, another guy gets his 3,000th, a pitcher wins 300, there’s three great pennant races and last night 90,000 fans saw two great games in New York,” Mauch said, shaking his head. “It’s been a great year for baseball.” The Angel fans don’t seem to be quite as enthused, though. The Angels drew a disappointing 100,407 for the three-game series with Kansas City this week. . . . All this apathy is costing Reggie Jackson money. The attendance clause in Jackson’s contract doesn’t start paying until the Angels draw 2.4 million, and they are 85,367 short of that number now with just eight home games--against Texas, Chicago and Cleveland--left to play. . . . Third baseman Doug DeCinces, making his first start since Aug. 17, said his back felt “pretty good” after going through a complicated regimen to loosen up Friday. He didn’t sound too convincing, though, and admitted that it was hard to tell until he really got into game action. DeCinces appeared a little stiff on a couple of ground balls, but he probably felt much better after lining a single to right in his first at-bat. . . . Geoff Zahn underwent arthroscopic surgery Friday to relieve points of irritation in his left shoulder. Whether or not the surgery was successful cannot be determined until the pitcher begins a rehabilitation program.