In theory, Tom Candiotti is beatable. Wait until he misses the strike zone a couple of times with his knuckleball and gets behind in the count, then he will have to throw a breaking ball. "I told every one of them to lay off the knuckleball and try to be patient, then he'll throw you a curve," Angel Manager Doug Rader said of the advice he gave his players before they faced Candiotti Saturday. "I don't think we did a very good job of it."
In practice, Candiotti's knuckler kept him ahead of hitters and forced the Angels to go after that maddening pitch. After their 4-1 loss to the Indians at Cleveland Stadium, the Angels could do nothing but shrug as helplessly as they batted against the Cleveland right-hander.
"You try to get ahead, but he was getting the ball over the plate. If he throws two knuckleballs over for strikes, what do you do?" Lance Parrish said after Candiotti (9-3) limited the Angels to six hits and one unearned run in seven innings.
"I've always maintained that if he gives you a good pitch to hit, you hit it," Parrish said. "I understand the philosophy behind waiting, but if everybody goes up there and swings at the first pitch and hits line drives, you can throw that philosophy out the window. He pitched well tonight, that's the bottom line."
The bottom line for the Angels was their fifth loss in seven games, dropping them 10 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics. The bottom line for Angel starter Kirk McCaskill was his fourth loss in 10 decisions. McCaskill also was displeased by his errant pickoff throw to first in the third inning and the resulting unearned run that gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
The Indians had scored in the second on a single by Candy Maldonado, a walk to Brook Jacoby and Cory Snyder's single. In the third, Jerry Browne drew a leadoff walk--one of five walks issued by McCaskill--and drew a throw to first with Chris James at bat. McCaskill's throw went beyond the reach of first baseman Wally Joyner and rolled down the right-field line, Browne going to third. He scored on James' sinking liner to left.
"I'm not going to go out and pitch well every time," McCaskill said. "There are times you don't feel good and don't have your rhythm and you've got to not make stupid mistakes like that."
McCaskill committed a similar error in his last start last Sunday against Detroit, but the Angels won that game, 10-2.
"I didn't do a very good job and I'm not happy with the way I went about it," McCaskill said. "It's hard to pinpoint why. A lot of things happened. . . . Me making a mistake like that cost me a run and it was a different ballgame."
Perhaps nothing could have changed the outcome because Candiotti--who defeated the Angels, 4-2, May 30 at Anaheim Stadium--was pitching well enough to have made one run stand up. Doug Jones pitched well enough in two relief innings to earn his 22nd save of the season and the 100th of his career.
Said Cleveland Manager John McNamara: "The key is Candiotti getting his knuckleball over for strikes. He gets it over and they're in trouble. He's pitched very consistently. He's had only one bad game where he's been wild with (the knuckleball)."
Good as the knuckler was, the Angels still had runners on base in six of the first seven innings. Dante Bichette struck out with Devon White at second and two outs in the second, and with men on second and third in the third, Chili Davis grounded out. They scored in the seventh on a walk to Davis, a single by Dave Winfield, a passed ball and White's grounder to the right side.
Donnie Hill made it to third on an infield single followed by two groundouts, but shortstop Felix Fermin made a leaping catch on a liner by Joyner to end the inning. An eighth-inning leadoff double by Davis--extending his hitting streak to 10 games--and a single by Parrish put runners at second and third with one out, but White struck out on three pitches and pinch-hitter Max Venable took a third strike.
The Angels left 10 men on base, seven in scoring position. They have left 96 in their last 12 games and 557 this season, among the top totals in the American League.
"We didn't get anything going, that's for sure," Rader said. "Their ballclub was opportunistic. . . . We had chances in the seventh and again in the eighth. Had we scored those runs it would have been a much different ballgame, but it wasn't."
Rader also fretted that hitting against Candiotti could ruin the Angels' timing for days. "Not only does (a knuckleballer) screw you up in the game you're playing, but in the next couple," he said.
But that theory also doesn't always hold up. : After losing to Candiotti May 30, the Angels won their next game. They defeated him May 22 and won the following next five games. They also defeated Texas' Charlie Hough.
Theories apparently can be as fickle as knuckleballs.
Second baseman Johnny Ray, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 8 because of a strained right shoulder, was activated Saturday. To make room on the 25-man roster, infielder Kent Anderson was optioned to triple-A Edmonton.
Anderson hit .280 in 31 games and was on the disabled list from May 20 to June 11 because of shoulder problems. He played mostly at shortstop but had played at second base recently. "We as an organization thought it was proper thing to do for our roster," Manager Doug Rader said.
Rader altered the pitching rotation to give Chuck Finley a better chance of pitching in the All-Star Game, moving Finley up a day to start Monday in Cleveland and pushing Bert Blyleven back to Tuesday at Toronto.
Finley, who ranks among the AL leaders with 10 wins victories and a 2.62 earned-run average, will pitch again next Saturday and could pitch in the July 10 All-Star Game on two days' rest. Finley was named voted to last year's season's team but didn't pitch. Blyleven, who will get six days' rest between starts, didn't mind the switch. "I'm pulling for Chuck to start the All-Star Game since I can't make it," he said.