Perhaps the most telling sign of this, the season of Kirk McCaskill, came Monday night with one out, an Oakland A's runner on first and ace reliever Donnie Moore hurriedly preparing himself for an appearance just moments away.
The Angels were protecting a 6-3 lead, a score that would later enable them to win their third consecutive game and extend their lead over the second-place Texas Rangers to four games in the American League West Division. McCaskill had just allowed an infield single to Mike Davis when Angel catcher Bob Boone began walking toward the mound. A moment later, pitching coach Marcel Lachemann popped out of the dugout with instructions from Manager Gene Mauch to replace McCaskill.
And this is where the new, always improving McCaskill made a stand.
"Hurry up, get back there," McCaskill yelled to Boone, half-gesturing toward home plate.
Boone kept walking to the mound. Lachemann arrived shortly thereafter.
"What are you doing here? I'm not leaving. Go away," McCaskill told Lachemann.
Lachemann has heard this sort of thing before: Pitcher says he's OK, pitcher stays in, pitcher gets bombed.
"Go back and tell Gene I'm all right," he said. "He'll understand."
Back on the Angel bench, Mike Witt noticed it was taking a long time to make a simple pitching change. He turned to Mauch.
"I think (McCaskill) is going to talk Lach out of it," he said.
"A blankety-blank he is," Mauch said.
McCaskill continued his plea. He tried disgust. He tried reason. He tried a few choice words. Lachemann could not be persuaded, even if he wanted to be.
"I'm going," Lachemann said, "and you're going with me."
So off they went--a grateful Lachemann and McCaskill, who had thrown, Mauch would later say: "140-something, hard, grinding pitches."
Moore, who probably threw three-innings worth of pitches waiting for McCaskill and Lachemann to finish their discussion, arrived on the mound and shortly thereafter, earned his third straight save, giving him 11 for the season.
Meanwhile, McCaskill earned his 12th win in 18 decisions, which surely ensures him of remaining among the league's elite in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts (he had nine Monday night) and earned-run average (only two of three A's runs were earned). He did it in front of a national television audience and an Oakland Coliseum crowd of 20,381.
The victory did not come easy. McCaskill, given a 3-0 lead before he ever threw a pitch, allowed two runs in the first. He also had runners on base in the third, fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Only in the fourth, when Oakland scored its final run (unearned), did McCaskill get penalized.
"Looking back at it, I was lucky to get through it all," he said.
At one point, after center fielder Gary Pettis made a nice running catch of a Dave Kingman line drive in the first, McCaskill said he remembers saying to himself: "This is going to be tough to get through.
"I didn't think I had anything," he said.
So, of course, he lasts 144 pitches, wins his eighth game in his last 11 starts and helps extend the Angel lead to four games.
"McCaskill wasn't McCaskill at his best. But McCaskill was at his grittiest," Mauch said.
Mauch can take partial credit for the win. It was his decision to replace Ruppert Jones at lead-off with Pettis, who hadn't batted first since June 18, a span of 32 games.
"That's where I've always wanted to hit him," Mauch said. "I wish he'd make me lead him off."
But Pettis entered the game with only a .250 average and just three hits in his last 19 at-bats. None of that explains why, on the first pitch from loser Joaquin Andujar (6-3), Pettis homered over the right-field fence, his first since May 16.
"My goodness," Mauch said. "That wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I put him up there. But there's nothing wrong with it."
Two outs later, Reggie Jackson singled to left, followed by Doug DeCinces' 12th homer of the season. That gave the Angels a 3-0 lead, which shrank to 3-2 by the time the A's got done batting in the first.
The Angels scored a fourth run in the third when DeCinces doubled home Wally Joyner, who had singled, stolen second (only his third steal) and moved to third on an errant throw by Oakland catcher Jerry Willard.
Later, Andujar stopped DeCinces as he ran off the field.
"(Andujar) told me I was lucky," DeCinces said. "I said, 'I know, I have been for 12 years.' "
The A's cut the lead to 4-3 in the fourth when Davis scored on Alfredo Griffin's RBI single. Davis had moved into scoring position on a throwing error by DeCinces.
No matter. McCaskill made it easily through the fifth and had two more runs to work with as he entered the sixth. Pettis, who finished with three hits in four at-bats, and Joyner scored on Jackson's two-run single. It was Jackson's first RBI-producing hit since July 11, when he homered twice off Boston's Tom Seaver in Fenway Park.
Oakland's Joaquin Andujar sent Ruppert Jones to the ground with a first-inning pitch that was thrown about a foot behind Jones' head. The pitch caused home plate umpire John Shulock to warn Andujar, as well as the Oakland and Angel benches. "The man (Shulock) handled it like an ex-ballplayer should handle it," Manager Gene Mauch said. "The way he handled it was good. He said, 'I will not take the inside pitch away from you." Jones popped to third, and there were no more wild throws. . . . Rookie pitcher Ray Chadwick makes his first major league start tonight. He spent Monday night's game charting pitches and tried to learn something about the Oakland hitters. Chadwick, called up last Tuesday to take Ron Romanick's place in the rotation, said the thought of his debut "really hasn't hit me, yet. I guess I won't know what it will be like until I get there." Chadwick flew his grandmother, who lives in North Carolina, out to Oakland for tonight's game. Angel management hasn't told Chadwick how many chances he'll have to prove himself. Chadwick said he didn't need any such warning. "I guess I make my own destiny," he said.