Texas remains atop the American League West, although few outside Arlington, Tex., consider that to be more than just another June mirage. The real team to beat in the West, the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, came to Anaheim Stadium Thursday night, and the Angels beat them in customary fashion.
With very few hits and very few runs.
Mike Witt pitched his fifth complete game of the season to defeat the Royals, 3-2, before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 27,701. Witt limited Kansas City to six hits and struck out nine, equaling his season high, en route to his seventh victory in 11 decisions.
Six hits were one more than the Angels mustered against Danny Jackson, which should not be considered big news. Jackson is a left-handed pitcher and a Kansas City pitcher.
Those familiar with recent Angel history know how the Angel offense routinely responds to that combination.
In 1985, the Angels batted .220 against the Royals. Bob Boone hit .150, Brian Downing .132, Reggie Jackson .077, Bobby Grich .214, Ruppert Jones .208.
And Danny Jackson had proved to be a particular pain. In three starts against the Angels last season, Jackson went 2-1 with a 1.14 earned-run average.
So, the Angels did not enter this one amid false expectations. Runs, they knew, would be scarce.
Their best hope rested with Witt making runs scarcer for the Royals.
"Whenever you go up against them, you know it will be a tight game," Brian Downing said. "You know their pitchers will hold you down. We happened to have our big guy out there."
The Angels didn't give Witt much. They scored their first run on two walks, an infield out and a sacrifice fly by Doug DeCinces. Then in a two-run third inning, a bunt single by Dick Schofield proved instrumental.
Schofield's bunt came right after Bob Boone's leadoff double. Downing cleared the bases with a triple into the right-field corner, giving the Angels their third and final run.
Thanks to Witt, that was enough to lift the Angels above the .500 level (30-29) and into sole possession of second place.
"We didn't give Michael a whole heckuva lot to work with. But he made it stand up," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said. "Witt made some great pitches with the breaking ball when he had to. That becomes a great weapon when you get two pitches of that quality over (the plate).
"I think he expects now to start what he finishes. Or finishes what he starts. One of those."
The Royals were similarly confused. They were still looking for their first hit in the sixth inning. They scored in that inning, and also in the eighth, but went out in order during their last chance to tie in the top of the ninth.
Kansas City's first hit, Willie Wilson's single in the sixth, led to the Royals' first run. Wilson promptly scored on a double by Lonnie Smith.
Three singles in the eighth inning accounted for Kansas City's other run. Jorge Orta's hit scored Rudy Law from third base.
The Royals had one real opportunity at a third run--after Smith's double in the sixth inning--but a flashy defensive play by first baseman Wally Joyner stifled it. With Smith on third, George Brett hit a bouncer to Joyner. Smith broke for the plate, Joyner threw home and was just in time to erase Smith.
"Joyner's play was a thing of beauty," Mauch said.
The Royals said much the same thing about Witt's complete game.
"He was strong," Kansas City Manager Dick Howser said. "That was one of the better games pitched against us this year. If he gets the ball over like he did tonight, he can beat anybody."
Danny Jackson said Witt "just can't pitch any better than that. I was impressed with his command of all three of his pitches."
Jackson also was philosophical about his effort in defeat.
"You can't expect a shutout all the time," he said.
Many times against the Angels, the Royals come close. For the Angels, three runs is a veritable offensive onslaught--and Witt made it look like as much Thursday night.
On the brink of career victory No. 300, Don Sutton was greeted at Anaheim Stadium Thursday by the type of media barrage usually reserved for Wally Joyner. Sutton, whose next start on Saturday could be a historic one, handled all interview requests but did his best to try and downplay the moment at hand. "It's not really important until Saturday," Sutton said. "I can't win it or lose it until Saturday, so why worry about it?" . . . John Candelaria and Doug Corbett refused to talk about their scuffle Wednesday in Chicago, when they threw punches in the outfield during batting practice. The altercation occurred while the two pitchers were running wind sprints, apparently after some ribbing by Candelaria struck a nerve with Corbett. They exchanged swings and had to be separated by teammates. "A needle just got overextended, and I don't know who fired the first barb," said Manager Gene Mauch, who talked with both players Thursday. "It's all been taken care of." . . . The Angels announced the signing of their No. 1 draft selection, right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who went 7-2 at South Carolina Aiken this spring. The Angels have signed 17 of the 25 players they drafted. . . . Brian Downing's third-inning triple was the Angels' fifth in their last six games.