It’s Getting to Be Habit for Angels

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Two late-inning comeback victories for the Angels in as many days, after just one in their first 91 games? Come again?

Yes, it’s true. The Angels, who were 1-40 in games in which they trailed after seven innings before this weekend, scored five times in the eighth inning Sunday to wrestle an 8-5 victory away from the Milwaukee Brewers before 30,635 at County Stadium.

On the day after George Hendrick delivered a game-winning, three-run pinch-hit home run, Ruppert Jones pulled out another one with a bases-loaded pinch-hit double.


Besides clearing the bases with his opposite-field hit against Milwaukee reliever Paul Mirabella, Jones absolved Jerry Reuss of his many sins Sunday, sparing the Angel starter a probable second defeat.

Reuss, a stopgap starter during his first three outings with the Angels, has now become part of the gap. Including the five runs he surrendered in 4 innings against Milwaukee, Reuss has lasted just 11 innings in his last three starts, allowing 26 hits, 18 runs and 12 earned runs. His earned-run average over that span: 9.26.

He turned a 3-1 Angel lead into a 5-3 deficit when he yielded two-run home runs to Bill Schroeder and Robin Yount in the fifth inning. That necessitated a pitching change and Manager Gene Mauch summoned Jack Lazorko (3-5), who worked 2 scoreless innings, sticking around long enough to capitalize on the Angels’ late offense.

Their five-run eighth took the Angels through four Brewer pitchers. Starter Juan Nieves walked Doug DeCinces and Hendrick. Jay Aldrich gave up a run-scoring single to Devon White, a sacrifice to Bob Boone and an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Jack Howell.

Mauch then sent up Jones, a left-handed hitter, to bat for Gus Polidor. Milwaukee Manager Tom Trebelhorn countered with Mirabella, a left-handed reliever.

Jones, knowing Mauch’s steadfast reliance on percentages, expected to see a right-handed hitter emerge from the Angel dugout.


“I looked back at the dugout,” Jones said. “All (Mauch) told me was, ‘You’re hitting.’ ”

Said Mauch, explaining his decision to temporarily trash The Book: “(Hitting for Jones) never entered my mind. He can still sweep the ball to the right side. He’ll get at least one (run) in, and I don’t figure he’s going to hit into a double play.”

Jones got three runs in, instead going to the left side--stroking the ball over third baseman Steve Kiefer’s head down the left-field line. By the time Jones wound up on second base, the Angels had a 7-5 lead.

After an out and an intentional walk to Brian Downing, Joyner made it 8-5 with his second RBI single. That brought on the Brewers’ fourth pitcher, Chuck Crim, who finally ended the inning.

With the hit, Jones finished the weekend with 5 RBIs in two games. As pinch-hitters, he and Hendrick, the Bench Brothers, provided back-to-back game-winning hits for the Angels.

“That’s how you win pennants,” Jones said. “That why you have veterans like George and me on the bench. We’ve been through the wars.

“We made up a deficit (Saturday night) against one of the best relief pitchers in the league,” Jones added, referring to Milwaukee’s Dan Plesac. “George hit the home run and we scored four runs the next inning, too. George got us going.”


So where was all this pinch-hitting during the Angels’ trials of April, May and June? Why only one late-inning comeback victory before the All-Star break?

“A lot of it has to do with the guys on the bench not getting at-bats,” Jones said. “We had no George Hendrick on the bench for two months. His coming back was a big plus.

“Here, recently, the manager has started to use a lot of his roster. Mark Ryal’s starting to play some; he’s getting a better feel. I’m playing a little now. Gus Polidor is filling in for Dick Schofield and doing a good job at shortstop. Today, we finished the game with a double-play combination of (Mark) McLemore and Howell. Things like that.

“You look at all the good teams and they all have guys who can come off the bench. You need that. You’re only as good as your 24th man.”

In a four-game series in which no Angel starting pitcher made it out of the sixth inning--and three failed to complete five innings--the Angels needed such bench work to salvage a split. Much bailing was needed for Reuss Sunday, including aid from the bullpen. And it came from Lazorko and Greg Minton, who combined to limit the Brewers to two singles over the final 4 innings.

Minton earned his seventh save with two hitless innings. Five of his six outs came on ground balls.


“Minton killed all the grub worms left around home plate,” Mauch said with a grin.

And the Angels, maybe, took a step toward killing the notion that once you’ve got them after the seventh inning, you’ve got them for good.

Angel Notes

Jerry Reuss is 1-1 in his last four starts, which is as good an indication as any as to how numbers can be deceiving. In those starts, Reuss has lasted 5, 5, 2 and 4 innings. In support of Reuss, the Angels have scored 10 runs twice and 8 runs once. And charting one of Reuss’ last three starts has been akin to combing a mine field. The big inning is planted out there, somewhere, and it’s only a matter of time before Reuss makes the wrong step. Against Boston on July 6, it was the first inning--when the Red Sox scored five runs before the Angels took their first swings. In Reuss’ last start, July 11, it was the second inning--in which Detroit erupted for five more runs. And Sunday, there was the four-run fifth inning against Milwaukee. “Are you asking me if there’s a common thread,” Manager Gene Mauch said. “No. Today, he was having a ball for the first four innings. But I don’t know how to defense a home run, whether he throws ‘em or (Don) Sutton throws ‘em.” Said Reuss: “I don’t think you can draw any conclusions from those three games. That happens. Today, it was just three fly balls. And the wind blew two of them out.” . . . With a pair of RBI singles, Wally Joyner surpassed Toronto’s George Bell as the American League RBI leader. Joyner has 79 RBIs to Bell’s 77. . . . Doug DeCinces drove in two runs with two doubles in four at-bats. . . . Gary Pettis started in center field, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout before giving way to pinch-hitter Jack Howell in the eighth inning. Howell was intentionally walked to set the stage for Ruppert Jones’ pinch-hit double.