Angels Beaten by Mariners--It's Not a Pretty Story : Mauch Not Inclined to Go Into Chapter and Verse After Bunt in Ninth Brings 5-4 Setback

Times Staff Writer

Gene Mauch had watched every inning of the Angels' 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium and figured that was enough to ask. He wasn't about to chip in with an oral report, too.

"That's it," Mauch said after answering a couple of questions. "You could write a book on that game."

The Angel manager then turned his back, waved his arms in the air and walked into his office, leaving the reviews to others. Mauch closed the door behind him with a slam. Moments later, another loud noise of unknown origin followed.

Enough said.

For the Angels, the book on Sunday's game had a rotten beginning, a titillating climax and a bummer of an ending. Given a choice, Mauch probably would have left it on the shelf.

A Cliff Notes version:

--Chapter I: The Fall and Rise of Kirk McCaskill: In his first four starts since returning from elbow surgery, McCaskill had not pitched beyond the fourth inning. And Sunday, there was some doubt as to whether he would get out of the first.

McCaskill struck out the first two Mariners, then loaded the bases on a single and two walks, then gave up a grand slam to Mike Kingery.

McCaskill settled down to eventually complete seven innings, which Mauch considered encouraging. "He put some nice zeroes on the board after that," Mauch said.

But McCaskill kept coming back to that early four-run blotch. "You can't go out there and give them four runs before your guys have a chance to hit," he said.

--Chapter II: Pinch-hitting--An Instructional Guide: The Angels rallied to tie the game at 4-4, and nearly equaled a major league record with three pinch-singles in the eighth inning. Jack Howell, Bill Buckner and Darrell Miller all came off the bench to deliver hits as the Angels scored two runs off a pair of Seattle relief pitchers.

--Chapter III: Pettis At The Bat: Yet the Angels left the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and squandered another prime opportunity in the seventh when Mauch allowed Gary Pettis to twice bat for himself--and didn't ask him to bunt.

Pettis struck out both times, which doesn't rank among the great surprises of the decade. Pettis is batting .208 with 110 strikeouts in 100 games.

--Chapter IV: Throwing It All Away: The 4-4 tie didn't last long. In the top of the ninth inning, Angel relief pitcher Greg Minton got the first two Seattle batters to hit grounders to the left side of the infield.

The first, by Dave Valle, squirted past an out-of-position Mark McLemore at shortstop.

The second, a chopper by Domingo Ramos, was gloved by third baseman Doug DeCinces--and quickly thrown away. DeCinces stumbled as he came down with the ball and didn't appear to have a play at any base. He threw the ball to second anyway, misfiring badly.

The ball wound up in center field and Valle wound up on third.

From there, Valle scored the winning run on a one-out squeeze bunt by John Moses.

Afterward, the final plot twist was what hung on the minds of the Angels.

Mauch called DeCinces' play a tough one and chose not to second-guess his third baseman.

"He's the very best I've seen at that play," Mauch said. "Nobody in the world starts the 5-4-3 double play like Doug DeCinces. He knew he was gonna have to make a great play to get a force play. It just didn't work that time."

Said DeCinces: "When I came down, I lost my footing a little bit. I tried to force the play. I kind of hesitated and threw off balance. My only chance was the guy going to second. I couldn't get the guy going to first."

DeCinces might have done better by simply holding onto the ball and not risking an error. "Whether he did the right thing or not, I don't know," said Howell, who was the second baseman on the play but also plays third.

DeCinces shrugged.

"They would've bunted (Valle) over there anyway," he said.

Harold Reynolds followed with a dribbler back to Minton, who held Valle at third before throwing to first for the out. Moses, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, then laid down a squeeze bunt that easily scored Valle from third.

"I had squeezes on all day," said Mariner Manager Dick Williams. "We took them off in certain situations, but we weren't getting the run across. Mo (Moses) can handle the bat.

"If they pitch out there, we're screwed. But they didn't--and we won."

Mauch said the squeeze bunt didn't surprise him and he had considered calling for a pitchout or two, but ultimately decided against it.

"I had a mind to pitchout," Mauch said. "I've been known to pitchout three times in a row in that situation. But if we walk him (Moses) and don't get a double play on the next guy (Phil Bradley), there's Alvis Davis. I don't want that."

Davis is batting .309 with 54 RBIs. Moses is batting .251 with 29 RBIs. Mauch gambled that he could beat the bunt--and lost.

Davis started McCaskill's troubles in the first inning, hitting an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a single. Jim Presley and Ken Phelps then walked and McCaskill fell behind on the count to Kingery, 3-0.

McCaskill came back to groove two strikes to Kingery, who had the "take" sign on. But at 3-2, McCaskill went for another strike--and Kingery bounced it off the cement facade beyond the right-field fence. It was his first major league grand slam.

"I got behind him, 3-0, and I didn't want to walk him," McCaskill said. "At 3-2, I had to make sure I didn't walk him. I threw him a fastball and I didn't think he hit it that good, but. . . .

"The problem was, I should have never been in that situation. There's no problem if I don't walk those two guys."

The Angels still could have overcome that problem if they hadn't stranded two runners in the seventh inning . . . or left the bases loaded in the eighth . . . or had McLemore positioned correctly on Valle's grounder . . . or got at least one out on Ramos' chopper to DeCinces.

"Sometimes, you can get them to hit line drives right at people. Sometimes, they just top it in the right places," Minton said. "Seattle did a precision topping job today."

Angel Notes

The three pinch-hits by Jack Howell, Bill Buckner and Darrell Miller in the eighth inning were one shy of the major league record. Buckner's drove in Doug DeCinces with the Angels' third run and Miller's brought home Devon White with the tying run. Angel pinch-hitters are batting .362 (25 for 69), tops in the major leagues. . . . No one pinch-hit for Gary Pettis, however, and the result was two more strikeouts and four more runners stranded. In the seventh inning, Pettis left two runners on base by striking out on three pitches. It was the first of three Angel strikeouts that inning, with Mark McLemore and Wally Joyner following suit. By the time Pettis' spot in the order came up in the eighth inning, Manager Gene Mauch had already exhausted his bench with five pinch-hitting/pinch-running moves. So Pettis had to bat again and strike out again with two runners on base. McLemore followed with a walk, loading the bases, before Brian Downing ended the threat with a broken-bat pop fly to second base.

Greg Minton is a ground-ball pitcher, but two ground balls in the ninth inning helped make him a loser. Minton thought Domingo Ramos' chopper over third base was a tough play for DeCinces. "He wasn't going to get two on that ball, but if he hadn't bobbled it, he could have gotten one," Minton said. The next guy (Harold Reynolds) hits one back at me and we get a double play and get out of the inning." Minton, though, wondered about how McLemore, moving to shortstop after the eighth inning, positioned himself for Dave Valle. Valle hit a grounder between third and short that skipped through for a single. "Mark hasn't played much shortstop, but with a right-handed sinkerball pitcher going against a right-handed hitter, you sure don't shade up toward the middle. If I had (Gus) Polidor or somebody out there, I think it would have been an out." . . . Kirk McCaskill's curveball is not what he would like it to be, which left him shorthanded for seven innings. "When I have only a fastball, a slider and a changeup, I have to battle out there," he said. "I need to get that pitch back. I have a curveball, but not my curveball, not the consistent curveball with good snap on it that I can throw any time., It's a real feel pitch and I need to get that feel back."

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