Former Dodgers, Now Texans, Have No Joy to Share With Sutton

Times Staff Writer

The Texas Rangers have lost five in a row and their lead in the American League West was reduced to half a game Wednesday night.

And the fact that the loss came at the hands of a 41-year-old pitcher named Don Sutton--who picked up his 300th career victory in the process--didn't make it any easier to take.

The Rangers' manager, a coach and two players are former Dodger teammates of Sutton's, but there was little room for graciousness in the Texas clubhouse on this evening.

Mudville after Casey's strikeout was a party town compared to this.

"I don't have time for nostalgia," Ranger Manager Bobby Valentine said. "I played with Don for two years in L.A. He pitched good tonight . . . good enough to win. He's a competitor who's always made the most of his ability."

OK, so Valentine and Sutton weren't exactly best friends. And a second-year manager has other things on his mind besides an ex-teammate's place in the record books. After all, losing streaks have culminated in managers' losing their jobs before. Lots of times.

But surely Joe Ferguson, who was behind the plate for about one-third of Sutton's victories during the pitcher's peak years with the Dodgers, would have at least a polite congratulatory statement about his longtime battery mate.

Don't bet the house. Class was a hard-to-locate commodity in Rangerdom about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

The Texas coach wasn't in the mood for reminiscing, either.

Did he at least have some mixed emotions about Wednesday's loss?

"No, none at all," Ferguson said, turning and walking away. "Let him win it against someone else."

Charlie Hough, whose own flirtation with baseball history went sour in the ninth inning Monday night, couldn't say that he was happy for the man he played alongside for 10 years, but he did feel compelled to give Sutton his due.

"I don't like it at all," Hough said. "I wish he beat Kansas City last week. He was going to the Hall of Fame, anyway. He was going to win another one sometime.

"You don't really notice Sutton. He just snuck up on it . . . in 20 years, he just snuck up on it."

Hough remembers a different Sutton from the one who went the distance and limited Texas to just two singles and a solo home run by rookie Pete Incaviglia en route to a 5-1 victory at Anaheim Stadium.

"He doesn't have the endurance and his stuff isn't quite as sharp, not to say that he wasn't pretty darned good tonight," Hough said. "But, hell, he's tough."

Infielder Tom Paciorek did his best to save a little face for the Rangers. He played for the Dodgers for six seasons--during which Sutton won 104 games-- and said he was surprised Sutton hadn't won No. 300 years ago.

"When I played with Don, he had really great stuff. I always thought back then he should have won even more than he did. I would have thought he'd have gotten to this level sooner. Of course, back then I didn't know he would last 20-plus years. He was never that strong-looking of a guy, but he's avoided injury.

"And, more importantly, Don was always driven. He always set big goals for himself. I don't think he's gotten a whole lot of credit for what he's accomplished."

There certainly wasn't a wealth of praise emanating from the Texas' clubhouse, anyway.

"We're getting paid to beat him," Hough explained. "Maybe at the end of the year I'll be able to feel good for him."

It's not likely Sutton will hold his breath.

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