Witt Goes a Strong 10, Angels Win in 11th

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Mike Witt, 6-foot-7 wallflower amid the Angels’ starting pitching resurgence, came in from the cold long enough Sunday afternoon to finally get in on the action, although not quite long enough to get a winning decision.

That distinction went to Bob McClure, the Angel reliever who shut out the Toronto Blue Jays for one inning--or one-tenth as long as Witt did.

But on this day, timing was everything and McClure was at the right place at the right moment. A run-scoring double by Lance Parrish in the bottom of the 11th inning made the moment, ending 10 1/2 innings of zeroes and giving the Angels a 1-0 victory before 31,125 at Anaheim Stadium.



Witt could’ve evened his record at 3-3 if only:

--He had been able, or allowed, to squeeze out one more shutout inning after limiting the Blue Jays to five singles through 10 innings.

--Or Parrish had been able to deliver his double in the first inning, instead of bouncing into a home-to-first double play with the bases loaded and no outs.

Then again, Toronto starter John Cerutti might have parlayed his 10 shutout innings into a victory if:

--Witt hadn’t snagged a sharp grounder by Rance Mulliniks in the eighth inning and turned it into a double play with Blue Jay Alexis Infante on third base and one out.

--Or Toronto General Manager Pat Gillick, who hadn’t made a trade in 20 months, could have waited one more day before shipping outfielder Jesse Barfield to the New York Yankees for pitcher Al Leiter. Barfield is a career .429 hitter against Witt (12 for 28) and maybe, just maybe, might have come in handy on Sunday.

Instead, events developed so that Witt and Cerutti were both removed from the decision by the time one was rendered, the gavel finally being dropped by the 11th-inning doubles Johnny Ray and Parrish managed against Blue Jay reliever Tom Henke.


And Witt would have to satisfy himself with making an 135-pitch assist in the Angels’ fifth consecutive victory, which completed a three-game sweep of the slumping Blue Jays.

“The only thing missing was the ‘W,’ ” Angel Manager Doug Rader said of Witt’s performance. “His presence on the mound, his outward aggressiveness, the effort he put into his pitches--that was vintage Mike Witt. It was fantastic to see.”

It was a while in coming, too. While Kirk McCaskill was throwing one-hitters and Bert Blyleven was reeling off three consecutive complete games and Chuck Finley was lowering his earned-run average to 2.45, Witt, the No. 1 name in the Angel rotation, took the staff’s highest ERA--5.79--and a 2-3 record into Sunday’s game. In his previous start, Witt lasted only 3 1/3 innings in an eventual 8-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Take away Witt and the Angel team ERA, before Sunday, was an astounding 2.30.

For the month of April, anyway, Witt had gone from ace to straggler.

“The other guys have been picking me up,” Witt said. “That’s made it a lot easier, but I know I haven’t been pitching that great.”

Witt needed 10 shutout innings against Toronto to lower his ERA to 4.43, which is still nearly a run higher than rookie Jim Abbott’s 3.65.

Yet, Rader tried to downplay the obvious, characterizing Witt’s first month of the 1989 season as “not that bad a start.


“I think Jack Morris (0-5) and Frank Viola (0-4) would be glad to trade places with Mike. His ERA is respectable. Unfortunately for Mike, when he doesn’t pitch like he did today, people remember the way he used to pitch. His own efficiency paves the way for criticism.

“But any time you’re 2-3 and people call that a bad start, that’s quite a compliment to a guy’s ability.”

And that record could have been 3-3, which made the Angels’ 11th-inning victory after Witt’s 10th-inning ouster such a tease.

“It would’ve been a lot better if we’d won it in the 15th,” Witt said. “To get it the very next inning was a little disappointing.”

Perhaps sensing what lay ahead, Witt said he discussed the possibility of pitching one more inning with Rader after he completed the 10th.

“I gave him my two-cents’ worth,” Witt said. “I gave him my opinion. I felt in the 10th inning like I did in the eighth.”


Rader believed him, too, but wasn’t convinced that was good enough to warrant another inning.

“He’d been tired for two innings and he’d worked out of some very difficult situations,” Rader said. “It’s very important to protect your starting pitchers, especially considering what he’d done and what he’d gone through.

“I think 130 pitches is plenty. We can’t afford to be shortsighted. He threw 130 pitches under some stressful circumstances, and that translates to the toll 150 pitches normally takes. That’s plenty.”

So McClure came on to reap what Witt had sown. A 1-2-3 inning . . . and then watch from the bench as Ray and Parrish doubled off Henke (1-3) to decide the game.

“At last,” Parrish said of his game-winning hit. “I was very happy to be able to make up for that first-inning double play. As the game went on, I kept thinking, ‘If I’d hit the ball on the ground any where else.’ But, no, I had to hit it right back at the pitcher.”

When Parrish did, followed by a fly out by Chili Davis, the Angels had wasted a bases-loaded, no outs situation--and the groundwork for a 10-inning double shutout had been laid.


“That’s baseball,” Witt said. “To say what might’ve happened is just conjecture. They could’ve scored on me my last two innings, too.”

It all came down to timing Sunday afternoon.

Maybe next time.

Angel Notes

Immediately after the game, the Angels announced they were optioning second baseman Mark McLemore to their triple-A club in Edmonton, which prompted an immediate request by McLemore to be traded. “I did ask for (a trade),” McLemore said as he hurried to pull on a pair of sweats and leave the Angel clubhouse. “They knew exactly what I was going to say. I’ll be back (in the major leagues) one day, but I don’t know where.” McLemore had been called up to replace Johnny Ray while Ray was on the disabled list, but hadn’t appeared in a game since Ray returned to the starting lineup last Monday. In 15 games, McLemore batted .242 with nine RBIs and four stolen bases. He also committed four errors. “Mark perceives himself as the man who should play second base here--and that’s a healthy outlook to have,” Angel Manager Doug Rader said. “Unfortunately, that does not coincide with the feelings of our coaching staff. Right now, everybody here feels John Ray is the better player. That doesn’t minimize (McLemore’s) ability or potential. But Mark needs to play every day. It’s the same exact situation we had coming out of spring training. Nothing has changed.”

McLemore’s demotion creates a roster vacancy the Angels say they will fill today. With relievers Bryan Harvey and Willie Fraser weakened by the flu, the Angels will probably recall a pitcher, which will again give Rader an 11-man staff. “That’s a good assumption,” Rader said. And a good possibility is left-hander Vance Lovelace, although Rader said Lovelace has been “a little spotty, a little inconsistent” at Edmonton. Lovelace was on the Angels’ opening-day roster, but pitched only one inning before being optioned to Edmonton to make room for shortstop Kent Anderson on April 13. Another possibility: Dick Schofield’s return from the 21-day disabled list. Schofield is eligible to be reactivated on Wednesday and Rader said the shortstop could be ready to play some time this week. Tony Armas (hamstring injury) is still two weeks away, according to Rader.