McCaskill’s Stuff Wins, but He’s Stiff
The more runs the Angels scored in the fourth inning Saturday night, the greater Kirk McCaskill’s chance of winning.
And the greater his chance of losing the opportunity to pitch a complete game.
Although the Angels gave him more runs to work with than they had provided in his previous six starts combined, the 29-year-old right-hander couldn’t completely enjoy it. Stiffness in his elbow forced him to exit after 5 1/3 innings, but it was enough for him to get the victory in the Angels’ 8-3 rout of the Rangers at Anaheim Stadium.
“That long inning really hurt me,” said McCaskill, who allowed one run and five hits in gaining only his second victory in his last seven starts. “It was almost like I could feel it stiffen minute by minute.”
Still, given the choice of having runs scored in his behalf and pitching longer with less support, McCaskill (4-3) will take the runs. He would make that choice even though it brought a recurrence of the stiffness that forced him to miss a start May 19, and left him wondering whether it will become a part of his pitching life.
“The object is to win,” he said.
Make that win and survive. He left after a line single by Julio Franco screamed past his head, scoring Texas’ first run. “I figured after I dodged death, that was about it,” he said.
The Angels won on the strength of their offense, which produced three home runs in a game for the 10th time this season. Each of the three was significant: Brian Downing’s leadoff homer against Mike Jeffcoat (1-2) in the first was the 19th leadoff homer of his career and first since April 5, 1989; Rick Schu’s homer in the fourth was his second in two games and gave the Angels a 4-0 lead, and Dick Schofield’s leadoff homer in the sixth was his first hit of the season in 11 at-bats.
“I just want to get out of the blocks,” said Schofield, whose home run off Jamie Moyer matched a run Texas had scored in the top half of the inning. “I didn’t care if (his first hit) was a swinging bunt or a bloop over the infield. I’d like to cut that up in four and have four singles instead of a dinger, but I’ll take it.”
Downing, making his third consecutive start in the leadoff spot, had a single in the fourth in addition to his home run, boosting his lifetime average against Jeffcoat to .500 (nine for 18). Downing was two for four against the Ranger left-hander last Saturday at Arlington, Tex., but Jeffcoat prevailed that day in a 6-3 complete game victory.
“I’m just happy to get up to my weight,” said Downing, who weighs 194 pounds and is hitting .209. “Some pitchers you see a little bit better than others, but this year, I don’t care who’s out there. I just want to do the best I can.
“He threw a bigger variety of pitches tonight than last weekend. He was having a little trouble getting some other ones over.”
Downing had no difficulty powering a 3-2 fastball into the left-field seats.
Schu hit his fourth home run of the season 406 feet to center field. He started at third base even though Jack Howell came off the disabled list Saturday; he did yield to Howell as a defensive replacement in the ninth, as Manager Doug Rader worked Howell into the lineup to help Howell renew his feel for the game.
“It’s nice to get the at-bats,” Schu said. “You can get into a groove because you know you’re going to be playing.”
The Angels got into a comfortable groove against Jeffcoat and Moyer in the fourth, sending 10 men to the plate in their first five-run inning of the season.
“It’s great to hit home runs like this,” Schofield said. “We’ve hit a ton this year, it seems like. Every game somebody is coming through.”
McCaskill would have liked to go nine but was realistic. “It was obvious to everyone involved, Doug and (pitching coach Marcel Lachemann) that my elbow was stiff,” he said. “They were trying to get me get out of the inning but it was mutually agreed upon.”
“We’ll have to see what happens. The first four innings, that’s the best I can throw the ball. Everything was working. If I can extend that to seven innings, I’ll be extremely pleased.”
Bert Blyleven’s son, Todd, a pitcher at Villa Park High School, was the Angels’ 39th-round pick in last week’s amateur free agent draft. Todd, who was 8-2 as a senior with a 1.26 earned-run average and 80 strikeouts, was already offered a full scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. “He has some options to consider and we’re keeping both avenues open,” said the elder Blyleven, himself a third-round pick out of Santiago High School in Garden Grove.
Second baseman Johnny Ray was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right shoulder. . . . Kent Anderson (sprained right shoulder) is eligible to be activated Monday and said he expects to be ready. Anderson was put on the 15-day DL on May 20 and later shifted to the 21-day list.