Dick Schofield homered for the first time in 50 games, Donnie Moore earned a save for the first time since last May and the Angels won for the first time in nearly a week, but was Cookie Rojas satisfied?
"Where's the champagne, damn it?" the Angel manager demanded with a grin following his team's 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers before a crowd of 10,927 at Tiger Stadium Wednesday night.
And it was a legitimate request. On a rainy night in Detroit, a lot of good things happened to the Angels that haven't happened in a long time.
With Schofield's first home run since last Aug. 28 heading a nine-hit attack that set up Moore's first save since last May 19, the Angels ended a four-game losing streak against the American League and an 11-year losing streak against pitcher Doyle Alexander.
Alexander hadn't lost to the Angels since June 26, 1977, or six teams ago, back when he pitched for the Texas Rangers and Angels still had a pitcher named Paul Hartzell. Hartzell lost to Alexander, 4-3, that night, beginning a 9-0 run for Alexander against California.
Going for 10-0 Wednesday, Alexander was finally stopped by Willie Fraser, who's on a streak of his own in 1988. Fraser is 3-0 after beating the Tigers despite a career-high seven walks in 7 innings--including six in the first three innings.
"Walking that many is normally death for a pitcher," Alexander sniffed afterward. "I couldn't walk that many and win. I'm not sure he'd like to try it again."
Fraser, a 23-year-old native New Yorker who goes through most of life with a shrug, didn't give it that much thought.
"I've been lucky," he said simply. "The team picked me up and the bullpen picked me up. I walked six guys in three innings, but I was always able to get the double play. The defense did a hell of a job. All I had to do was get a ground ball and I'd know they'd get me out of it."
The Angel infield bailed Fraser out with three double plays in each of the first three innings. Thus, Fraser yielded just one earned run over the first seven innings--that coming on a solo home run by Dave Bergman in the second.
More surprising assistance was provided by the Angel bullpen trio of DeWayne Buice, Bryan Harvey and Moore.
Buice replaced Fraser with one out and runners on first and third bases in the eighth inning. Buice faced one batter, Bergman again, and got him out on a run-scoring ground-out, cutting the Angels' advantage to 4-3.
Harvey then replaced Buice and, after walking Chet Lemon, brought the inning to a close by retiring Jim Morrison on a fly to left field.
One more inning remained and Rojas decided to let Moore pitch it. Moore had failed in both of his other save opportunities this year, and owned an 8.44 earned-run average at game time, but with the end of a losing streak at stake, Rojas gave him the ball nonetheless.
"He's our closer," Rojas insisted afterward.
And, finally, for the first time in nearly a year, Moore closed one down. He retired each of the three Detroit batters he faced, striking out Darrell Evans for the final out.
"That's the Donnie Moore we know," Rojas said. "This should help his confidence. Tonight was a big thing for him--and a big thing for us."
Moore said he had tried to "stand tall" through his recent struggles, through the game-losing home runs to Mark McGwire and Ron Hassey, through the boos that have become his personal soundtrack every time he pitches at Anaheim Stadium.
"I've tried to maintain an even keel," he said. "I didn't get too high or too low."
And for that, Moore said, an assist should be given Rojas.
"Everybody else might have lost confidence in me, but he didn't," Moore said. "And I play for him. I knew I was going to get into some games."
Schofield, Wednesday's other streak-breaker, had been taunted for days before finally stroking his first home run of the season. Since April 8, Schofield had seen two potential home runs bounce off the top of the fence and two others taken away by leaping catches--including one Tuesday night by Detroit left fielder Billy Beane.
Twenty-four hours later, Schofield hit one where only the paying customers could touch it, boosting the Angels' lead to 3-1 with his fifth-inning bases-empty home run.
"I kind of had it in the back of mind--'When am I ever going to hit one?' " Schofield said. "But you can't try to hit home runs. Do that and you'll never hit one.
"All I try to do is see the ball and react. After you hit it, it's out of your control."
Spoken like a man who hadn't indulged in a home-run trot in a while.
But Wednesday night, Schofield indulged all right. And so did the Angels, on many fronts.
Everywhere, really, except from a champagne bottle.
While the rest of the Angel pitching staff is 5-12, Willie Fraser checks in at 3-0 after four starts. His earned-run average is 3.91 and he leads the club in home runs allowed (5), but Fraser has benefitted from an Angel offense that has averaged 6.75 runs behind him. "Every time I go out there, I know they're going to score me some runs," Fraser said. "I know if I can keep it close, we're going to be in the game." Fraser won Wednesday despite seven walks, one more than his previous major league high. "I knew I was getting close," he said. "I walked six guys in the first three innings. It wasn't an easy win, but sometimes it feels better when you have to work harder." . . . Doyle Alexander may have turned a nose up at Fraser's less-than-artistic victory, but Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson was willing to call it even after his own Jeff Robinson shut out the Angels Tuesday night on 6 hits and 5 walks. "Fraser did the same thing Robinson did last night," Anderson said. "He got in it--and he got out of it." . . . Alexander also complained about the weather, which featured a cold and persistent rainfall. "I would have rather spent the evening in front of the fireplace," he said. Fraser, though, said he didn't mind. "Heck, I'm from New York," Fraser said. "I've pitched in snow before." So has tonight's Angel starter, Kirk McCaskill, which is probably a good thing, considering that snow flurries are forecast in Detroit today. "I pitched in snow in Providence during college," McCaskill said. What's it like? "You have to try and keep the curveball from bouncing off the flakes."
Detroit first baseman Darrell Evans stopped short of claiming foreign substance abuse on the pitch Donnie Moore used to strike him out in the ninth inning, but he did describe it as a funny-looking forkball. "That forkball must have just slipped out of his hand," Evans said, "because I've never seen one do that before. It just kind of veered away from me." Moore, meanwhile, credited a new grip for the flight of the pitch. "Lach (pitching coach Marcel Lachemann) adjusted my grip on the split-finger," Moore said. "It's the same grip I used in '85. Before, I was spreading my fingers out too wide and I couldn't grip it right. I was slinging the ball. Now, I'm closing my fingers more and trying to throw through." . . . With a double and a single, Johnny Ray extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Ray also drove in a run with the single, giving him 15 RBIs in his first 17 games this season. In 1987, Ray had 15 RBIs during his entire 30-game stint with the Angels.