Now a combined 7-1 with the Angels, John Candelaria and Don Sutton have helped stabilize the rotation and enhance the candidacy of General Manager Mike Port for Executive of the Year.
Port was sitting in Manager Gene Mauch’s office after Sutton earned his 295th career victory as the Angels defeated the Chicago White Sox, 9-3, Wednesday night to move within one game of the Kansas City Royals in the American League West.
“If the man wasn’t sitting here,” Mauch said with a smile, nodding toward Port, “I’d tell you that he’s done everything he can, and it’s up to us now to do everything we can.”
Coming back from Tuesday night’s loss to the White Sox, the Angels did about everything they could behind Sutton, who is 15-8 this season and 2-0 with California.
A 13-hit attack included three singles by Gary Pettis, a two-run single by Reggie Jackson and a towering home run by Brian Downing, whose second in two nights and 20th of the season landed on the roof near the left-field foul pole, then bounced over.
Neither Chicago starter Gene Nelson, who left in the fourth inning, nor five successors could prevent six Angels from driving in runs.
“The key thing tonight,” Sutton said, “was that they gave me a lot of runs to work with. I was trying to do anything I could do to get them (the White Sox) off the field so we could hit again.”
It may not be as easy tonight, when Candelaria (5-1) faces Tom Seaver. The Royals will be idle after losing three in a row to the Seattle Mariners, which is almost as stunning as their three straight losses at Texas recently.
“Nice goin’ Seattle,” Mauch said in response to the Mariners’ sweep.
“We’ve had some good things happen to us away from the park we’re playing in,” he added. “Now we have to have a few more good things happen in the park where we’re playing.”
Sutton, coming off his Angel debut in which he shut out Texas on two hits for seven innings, scattered six hits over 6 innings of this one.
Catcher Joel Skinner homered in the third and Luis Salazar singled in a run in the fifth.
Sutton walked none, struck out two and left after a two-out single by Salazar in the seventh.
Donnie Moore yielded an RBI single to Skinner after Salazar stole second, then retired the final seven White Sox hitters in order.
“Sutton didn’t have quite the stuff nor the command of his first start,” Mauch said, “but he reached down into his bag of tricks and pulled out every one.”
This is the nature of Sutton’s game now. He has won 12 of his last 15 decisions by keeping hitters off stride, doing “whatever it takes to pull the con.”
He changed speeds, hit spots and shook off catcher Bob Boone only twice while delivering 99 pitches.
“I had a little better control of a little less stuff,” he said, comparing this performance to his debut against Texas.
At 40, a member of four division winners, he is immune to September pressure.
“I don’t find it tense, nerve wracking or anything,” he said. “I feel rewarded to be allowed to pitch in a pennant race. This is what you play for. This is fun.”
In support of Sutton, the Angels took advantage of Downing’s muscle and a number of White Sox defensive sins. A disgusted Tony LaRussa, the Chicago manager, even picked up a glove and threw it down the dugout tunnel after watching center fielder Rudy Law allow Daryl Sconiers to advance a base because of a futile throw to the plate as Pettis scored from second on a single by Sconiers in the sixth.
The Angels gave Sutton a lead with two unearned runs in the second. The inning featured two walks, a hit batter, two infield singles and a costly error by second baseman Bryan Little, who dropped the ball making a tag on Jackson as he attempted to steal second. It should have been the third out of a scoreless inning.
Then, in the third, leadoff singles by Downing and Jackson were followed by Nelson’s wild pitch that left Downing in position to score as Doug DeCinces grounded into a double play.
Bobby Grich opened the fourth with a single, took second on a sacrifice and scored on Dick Schofield’s single to right, where Harold Baines, seemingly with a play at the plate, made a half-hearted charge en route to bobbling the ball as he fielded it.
Downing homered in the fifth, Sconiers singled in a run in the sixth and Jackson singled in two more in a three-run eighth that found Law losing his footing while fielding Schofield’s single. The pratfall allowed two runners to advance and epitomized Chicago’s performance.
Brian Downing became the first Angel and 27th different player to reach the left field roof here. There have been seven homers on or over the roof this year and 39 in all. . . . Third baseman Doug DeCinces, making his fourth straight start after missing 21 games because of lower back spasms, left the game in the seventh inning with new stiffness. DeCinces, in street clothes by the time the game ended, said he received treatment, took a muscle relaxant and “right now I don’t feel too badly. We’ll have to wait and see about tomorrow.”. . . Rod Carew, who suffered a twisted right knee in a first-inning collision with Carlton Fisk Tuesday night, complained of stiffness in pregame drills Wednesday and did not start, forcing Manager Gene Mauch to use his 138th lineup in 145 games. Daryl Sconiers, who had made four previous starts as a designated hitter, made his first start of the season at first base. Carew has hit .326 since July 31 . . . Backup third baseman Jack Howell sprained his left ankle in infield practice and was unavailable for the game. Assistant trainer Ned Bergert said the severity could not be determined until today . . . Reggie Jackson, who struck out three times against Britt Burns Tuesday night, said of the Chicago left-hander: “I’ve never seen a better forkball. No big deal to strike me out, but Juan Beniquez struck out twice against Burns, and he’s a great contact hitter.” . . . Mauch cited Al Holland’s ineffectiveness against left-handers for failing to use the left-hander against Harold Baines in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game, when Baines hit a three-run homer off Stewart Cliburn. The last 16 left-handers to face Holland have only two hits. The first eight to face him after he joined the Angels had three walks and three hits, including two home runs . . . John Candelaria (5-1) faces Tom Seaver (13- 10) in tonight’s series finale.