Witt Sweats Out Complete Game, Beats Red Sox, 2-1
Be it the greenhouse effect, or the Greenwell effect, Saturday night’s conditions at Anaheim Stadium were hardly conducive to any thoughts Angel pitcher Mike Witt may have had about throwing a complete game.
First, the weather: A sweltering, uncommonly muggy night in Orange County where, at 9:30 p.m., the thermometer still read 94 degrees--with 78% humidity for good measure.
And the opposition: The Boston Red Sox, who are the the best-hitting team in baseball with a lineup that includes the American League’s leading hitter in Wade Boggs and top run-producer in Mike Greenwell.
So what was Witt doing on the mound, more than 2 1/2 hours after throwing the game’s opening pitch?
He was handing the Red Sox a 2-1 defeat while--yes--managing to sweat out a complete game. It was the second straight defeat for Boston, which missed its second straight opportunity to catch first-place Detroit in the AL East standings. Witt finally returned to the .500 level at 12-12.
Witt, who was 1-6 with a 5.48 earned-run average in late May, held the Red Sox to eight hits and one run--a solo homer by Larry Parrish in the seventh inning--en route to his 10th complete game.
And the 10th, Witt surmised, may have been the toughest.
“The heat really got to me,” Witt said. “When I went down to the bullpen before the game, that’s when it really hit me. It hit my legs and I was real sluggish in the early innings.
“But as the game went along and I got into it, I got more energized.”
As a starting pitcher who doesn’t bat, Witt also had the advantage of utilizing the air-conditioning in the Angel clubhouse every half-inning.
“I was inside most of the night, said Witt, who was pleased to report the clubhouse temperature: “72 degrees.”
Regardless, Angel Manager Cookie Rojas was most impressed by what he saw on the mound.
“It was hot and humid, but he maintained his stamina right through the game,” Rojas said. “He had all three pitches working for him tonight and he used them all the way.”
But until the bottom of the eighth inning, Witt was working on a non-decision, locked in a 1-1 duel with Boston starter Mike Boddicker. To that point, the only runs allowed were Parrish’s 11th home run of the season and Bob Boone’s RBI single in the second inning.
And in the bottom of the eighth, when relief pitcher Dennis Lamp replaced Boddicker, Brian Downing and Dick Schofield hit into two quick outs.
The tiebreaking rally began with a drag bunt down the first-base line by Mark McLemore and continued with a walk to Johnny Ray.
Then, Boston Manager Joe Morgan removed Lamp from the game and brought on Mike Rochford, a rookie, to pitch to left-handed batter Wally Joyner. It would be Rochford’s major league debut--and after two pitches, he was ahead on the count, 0 and 2.
But then, Rochford sidearmed a pitch outside to Joyner, followed by a slider over the plate.
Joyner lined the slider into right field for a single, scoring McLemore from second base for the decisive run.
Bringing in a raw rookie to pitch to Joyner in a critical eighth-inning situation may seem a dubious strategy, but Morgan defended his decision.
“If (Rochford) had kept him away and down, he would’ve given Joyner plenty of problems,” said Morgan, noting that both of Rochford’s strikes were delivered away and down.
“He made three great pitches, then hung the last one.”
Rochford said he made a mistake by abandoning his sidearm delivery on his final pitch to Joyner.
“I came over the top with a slider, and he just pulled it over the second baseman’s head,” Rochford said. “I guess, in that situation, I should’ve stuck with that (sidearm) pitch.”
By that much, Witt was able to even his record, at last, after five months of toil and trouble.
“I don’t want to think of getting to .500 as an achievement,” Witt said, “because I should’ve been there all year.
“I think it’s more a matter of perseverance. I was reading a story about Tony Gwynn talking about his slow start and how he didn’t think he had a shot at the batting title--and what he’s done recently. I can relate to what he’s doing.”
Perseverance was the word of the hour Saturday night, where nothing less could’ve gotten Witt through his appointed rounds.
Devon White was already sidelined with a sprained ankle when his replacement in center field, Tony Armas, pulled up with a sore right knee in the second inning. When Armas hobbled to the Angel bench, Manager Cookie Rojas found himself out of center fielders, so he had to move Chili Davis from right to center and send George Hendrick out to play right. For Davis, it was his first appearance in center field this season . . . Add Armas: His batting average of .274 is the second highest of his career, five points lower than the personal best of .279 he had with Oakland in 1980. In his last 33 games, Armas is batting .368 with 8 home runs and 22 RBIs--compared with 3 home runs and 13 RBIs in his first 66 games.
Saturday’s crowd of 33,376 increased Angel attendance for 1988 to 2,004,623. The Angels have drawn at least 2 million fans to Anaheim Stadium in seven consecutive seasons and nine times overall . . . Two-time Angels: Mike Brown and Thad Bosley are two of only seven men who have played for the Angels, left the team and then returned for a second stint at Anaheim. The others: Tom Egan, Andy Hassler, Ron Jackson, Dave LaRoche and Paul Schaal.