Sutton Is on the Button--300th Is a 3-Hitter : Angel Pitcher Reaches Milestone Win in Style as He Defeats the Rangers, 5-1

Times Staff Writer

Somebody has some explaining to do. Maybe the bouncer nodded off for a few minutes or maybe the doorman was suckered by a false ID, but one of baseball's most exclusive clubs was crashed by a mere commoner Wednesday night.

The members of this club have trophies named after them. They are known by singular names, as simply Lefty or Early, or by titles befitting comic book titans--Tom Terrific and Big Train. They are the all-time legends in the art of throwing a baseball.

And today, they have the company of the sport's ultimate Everyman, Donald Howard Sutton.

Sutton, who won 20 games in a season only once, who never struck out 300 batters in a season, who never had a no-hitter, who just, in his own words, kept breathing and kept getting people out, became the 19th pitcher in major league history to win 300 games by beating the Texas Rangers, 5-1, before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 37,044.

Yep, that's right. Don Sutton, rubbing elbows with Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Early Wynn and Warren Spahn.

A working-class hero is something to be.

"What it means," Sutton said in the aftermath, "is that I stayed around 21 years to win 300 games. . . . I was unspectacular, but I got the job done."

Yet, for someone who relishes the idea that he did it his way, shunning the bright lights and sticking to a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, Sutton achieved his "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" in grand style.

He limited the Rangers to just one single through six innings. He was one pitch shy of a shutout. And at the advanced age of 41, he was on the mound for the final out, on hand to receive the handshakes and the bear hugs from his jubilant Angel teammates.

Sutton wound up with a three-hitter. It also was his second complete game of the season, a feat he hadn't accomplished since 1983, three years and two uniform changes ago.

He had the crowd on its feet throughout the ninth inning. A roar went up with the passing of each of the final three steps:

FIRST OUT--A fly ball to center by Scott Fletcher.

SECOND OUT--A fly ball to center by Oddibe McDowell.

THIRD OUT--A foul-tip third strike by Gary Ward, held by catcher Bob Boone.

Sutton heard the cheers, loud and clear. "The nicest, sweetest roar I've ever heard," he said.

There would be more. As soon as plate umpire Jim Evans clenched his fist and went through his game-ending gyration, the front of the pitcher's mound became a mob scene. Boone got to Sutton for the first ceremonial hug. Then Doug DeCinces, then Reggie Jackson, then Gene Manager Mauch, then a cast of thousands.

The meeting of Mauch and Sutton, somewhere along the third-base line amid the masses, was one for the memory bank. If the manager and pitcher share a common trait, it is the detached approach they take toward this game. Both of their keels are even, both of their keys are low.

But this was 300. What to do at such a moment?

Sutton had a suggestion.

"I know you're against this kind of thing," Sutton told Mauch with a grin, "but you can hug me if you want."

Mauch returned the grin. "This time and this time only," he said as he performed a rare impersonation of Tommy Lasorda.

"That ranks up with the all-time thrills baseball has given me," Mauch said. "Rodney's 3,000th, Jim Bunning's perfect game. It's remarkable how special people keep doing special things."

And Anaheim Stadium has become remarkable in its own right. Since the passing of the Olympics, the Big A has been witness to three major milestones--Reggie Jackson's 500th home run in 1984, Rod Carew's 3,000th hit in 1985 and now Sutton's 300th win.

"That's a pretty good trifecta," Brian Downing noted.

Beyond the historical ramifications, Sutton's triumph also accounted for a handful of little victories. In 85 pitches, Sutton:

--Completed a three-game sweep of the Rangers by the Angels.

--Moved the Angels within a half-game of first-place Texas in the American League West.

--Evened his 1986 record at 5-5 after a horrendous start that saw him lose his first three decisions while compiling an earned-run average of 9.12.

From the start of spring training, Sutton kept insisting that reaching the 300-win level was inevitable, just a matter of time. But there were some moments when Sutton must have wondered.

Like April 15, when he surrendered eight runs to the Seattle Mariners in two-thirds of an inning.

Like the difficult step from Victory No. 295 to 296--which required nine starts to complete.

Like May 23, when he allowed the New York Yankees six runs in 1 innings.

But in June, Sutton is 3-0. He pitched a two-hitter last week in Chicago for No. 299. And he nearly matched it Wednesday night against Texas.

After six innings, Ruben Sierra's second-inning single through the middle of the infield, skipping over the glove of outstretched second baseman Rob Wilfong, was the extent of the Ranger offense. In the seventh inning, Sutton committed his only real mistake--issuing a two-out home run to rookie designated hitter Pete Incaviglia.

And in the eighth inning, Sierra struck again, beating out an infield single that Wilfong stopped with a dive but couldn't throw.

By that time, the Angels had long since cinched the outcome. They scored three runs against Jose Guzman (6-7) in the first inning, with Wilfong's two-run single the catalyst. They added a runs in both the fifth and seventh innings on home runs by Ruppert Jones and Brian Downing.

And then they turned it over to Sutton.

Sutton, denied No. 300 last Saturday when the Kansas City Royals rallied and Sutton had to leave the game, kept one thought in mind during the final innings: Don't blow it again.

"I told Lach (pitching coach Marcel Lachemann) after the seventh, 'Don't let me foul this one up,' " Sutton said. "I didn't want it to happen again."

Sutton then went out and retired the last five batters he faced. A two-decade journey was over. Sutton took the low road, but he reached his destination.

Baseball's 300 Club will never be the same.

Angel Notes

John Candelaria held his final workout in the bullpen before Saturday's trip to Visalia, where he will pitch in his first game since April 9. Candelaria had some soreness in his arm after pitching a simulated game Monday but completed his scheduled 10 minutes of throwing. "I did everything I wanted to," Candelaria said. "It was a little sore, but I think it's pretty good that the arm is this close. After all, the doctors were in my elbow for three hours. It's a good thing they were able to do it with the arthroscope. If they had gone through the tendon, that was the season. But things have seemed to work out." Candelaria is scheduled to throw 65 to 70 pitches for the Palm Springs Angels in Visalia Saturday and then, in all likelihood, make a second start in Palm Springs Thursday. "It would be a crime, it would be asinine, to rush it," Manager Gene Mauch said. "We've waited this long."

Don Sutton's Career--Year by Year

Year Team W-L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H 1966 Los Angeles 12-12 2.99 37 35 6 2 0 226 192 1967 Los Angeles 11-15 3.94 37 34 11 3 1 233 223 1968 Los Angeles 11-15 2.60 35 27 7 2 1 208 179 1969 Los Angeles 17-18 3.47 41 41 11 4 0 293 269 1970 Los Angeles 15-13 4.08 38 38 10 4 0 260 251 1971 Los Angeles 17-12 2.55 38 37 12 4 1 265 231 1972 Los Angeles 19-9 2.08 33 33 18 9 0 273 186 1973 Los Angeles 18-10 2.43 33 33 14 3 0 256 196 1974 Los Angeles 19-9 3.23 40 40 10 5 0 276 241 1975 Los Angeles 16-13 2.87 35 35 11 4 0 254 202 1976 Los Angeles 21-10 3.06 35 34 15 4 0 268 231 1977 Los Angeles 14-8 3.19 33 33 9 3 0 240 207 1978 Los Angeles 15-11 3.55 34 34 12 2 0 238 228 1979 Los Angeles 12-15 3.82 33 32 6 1 1 226 201 1980 Los Angeles 13-5 2.21 32 31 4 2 1 212 163 1981 Houston 11-9 2.60 23 23 6 3 0 159 132 1982 Houston 13-8 3.00 27 27 4 0 0 195 169 Milwaukee 4-1 3.29 7 7 2 1 0 55 55 1983 Milwaukee 8-13 4.08 31 31 4 0 0 220 209 1984 Milwaukee 14-12 3.77 33 33 1 0 0 213 224 1985 Oakland 13-8 3.89 29 29 1 1 0 194 194 California 2-2 3.69 5 5 0 0 0 32 27 1986 California 5-5 5.03 13 13 2 1 0 77 79 Totals 300-233 3.20 702 685 176 58 5 4873 4288

Year R ER BB SO 1966 82 75 52 209 1967 106 102 57 169 1968 64 60 59 162 1969 123 113 91 217 1970 127 118 78 201 1971 85 75 55 194 1972 78 63 63 207 1973 78 69 56 200 1974 111 99 80 179 1975 87 81 62 175 1976 98 91 82 161 1977 93 85 69 150 1978 109 94 54 154 1979 109 96 61 146 1980 56 52 47 128 1981 51 46 29 105 1982 75 65 46 139 21 20 18 36 1983 109 100 54 134 1984 103 89 51 143 1985 88 84 51 91 13 13 8 16 1986 45 43 16 48 Totals 1909 1733 1241 3363

THE 300-WIN CLUB

PITCHERS YEARS RECORD Cy Young 1890-1911 511-313 Walter Johnson 1907-1927 416-279 Christy Mathewson 1900-1916 373-188 Grover Alexander 1911-1930 373-208 Warren Spahn 1942-1965 363-245 Pud Galvin 1879-1892 361-309 Kid Nichols 1890-1906 360-208 Tim Keefe 1880-1893 342-224 John Clarkson 1882-1894 327-176 Steve Carlton 1965-(Active) 318-222 Gaylord Perry 1962-1983 314-265 Charles Radbourn 1880-1891 308-191 Mickey Welch 1880-1892 307-209 Tom Seaver 1967-(Active) 306-196 Eddie Plank 1901-1917 305-181 Phil Niekro 1964-(Active) 303-255 Lefty Grove 1925-1941 300-141 Early Wynn 1939-1963 300-244 Don Sutton 1966-(Active) 300-233

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