If the New York Yankees can call their place of residence the Bronx Zoo, it seems only right that the Seattle Mariners refer to their home as the Animal Kingdome. For, as American League pitchers know, things can get wild in the Great Northwest.
Unimpeded by the elements, baseballs sail over the short outfield fences and rattle around in the quirky corners beneath the foul poles. They can also ricochet off the overhanging speakers or get lost in the red, white and blue roof streamers or bounce haphazardly over the spongy artificial turf.
So, Kirk McCaskill's four-hit, 4-0 shutout of the Mariners here Wednesday ranks as the Angels' first notable achievement of the 1987 season. Not only did McCaskill tame the great indoors, limiting Seattle to four singles, he did so with a painful right elbow.
"A great piece of work," said the man who caught it, Butch Wynegar, a veteran of 12 major league seasons. "I can't recall ever catching another shutout here. I've seen guys take one into the seventh inning, but then something always happens. To get through it and do it with only four hits is outstanding."
McCaskill did it, primarily, with only one pitch. When the tendinitis in his elbow flares up, as it did in his first start last Friday, he has trouble throwing breaking pitches. Angel pitching coach Marcel Lachemann told McCaskill to forget throwing the change-up, and Wednesday, Wynegar eased McCaskill off his curveball.
"I knew he was hurting a little," Wynegar said. "It played on my mind. I didn't want to call all fastballs, but on the other hand, I didn't want him blowing out his arm, either.
"What we came up with was him showing the curveball (as a set-up pitch) and using the fastball (to get the outs). I knew I was babying him a little bit, but he had a good fastball. He had them swinging at a lot of fastballs out of the strike zone."
This is not a new strategy. The swinging Mariners, whom Roger Clemens victimized in his record-setting 20-strikeout performance last season, led the majors in strikeouts in 1986 with 1,148.
"I try to eliminate the park," McCaskill said. "You try to keep the ball on the ground as much as you can and throw the ball to spots. It's kind of like Fenway--you can let it get to you, or you can ignore it."
The same could be said about McCaskill's nagging right elbow--which is precisely what Angel Manager Gene Mauch did.
"That's going to be there with him, off and on," Mauch said. "Some guys just have elbows like that. I imagine he felt it today. Obviously, he ignored it."
McCaskill tried to ignore it after the game, as well.
"I'd really rather not talk about my arm," he said. "I'm sure everybody pitches with a little pain from time to time. You just pitch through it. Obviously, it couldn't have been that bad, because I got through it."
McCaskill, who had nine strikeouts, lowered his earned-run average from 4.50 to 1.80.
Mauch said he hadn't expected to get nine innings from McCaskill but pointed out that "he threw just 120 pitches. I've seen him throw 140 pitches in a complete game, and he'd be stretching that arm from the fifth inning on."
McCaskill (2-0) walked one and faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum. He was assisted by Wynegar, who threw out two potential base stealers; by left fielder Jack Howell, who made a leaping catch against the wall to rob Ken Phelps, and by right fielder Devon White, who made two running catches.
Offensively, the Angels used the Kingdome to their advantage. Brian Downing hit a home run, which is nothing new, but so did Dick Schofield, which is.
Downing hit his homer leading off the game for his third leadoff homer of the season. He hit loser Mike Morgan's third pitch into the left-field seats for his fifth home run in nine games. He later had a run-scoring single, giving him 12 runs batted in in nine games.
Schofield's homer was his first of the season and only his fifth hit of 1987. Before the game, Schofield was batting .111, and the previous night, Mauch went so far as to pinch-hit for him.
Angel Notes To put Kirk McCaskill's shutout into perspective, the last by an Angel at the Kingdome was on April 6, 1977. The pitcher was Nolan Ryan. . . . Devon White's two running catches drew praise around the Angel clubhouse. One came on a dunker to shallow right field off the bat of Alvin Davis. "I thought the only way it could be an out was if (second baseman Mark) McLemore got to it," McCaskill said. "The next thing you know, Devo comes gliding in and catches it chest high." The other took away a potential extra-base hit from Scott Bradley, as White raced to the foul line to grab the sailing line drive. "That ball could've been a double or more," Manager Gene Mauch said. "It was only six feet fair. There's no telling how much ground White can cover." . . . Brian Downing holds the Angel record for leadoff home runs in one season with six, which he set in 1982. In nine games this season, he already has three--placing him within four of Rickey Henderson's major league record. Downing has led off games with home runs 13 times in his career. . . . After stealing 13 bases in their first six games the Mariners went 0 for 4 in stolen base attempts in the three games against the Angels. . . . The Angels are off today before opening a six-game homestand Friday night against Minnesota.