Two were on, two were out. Two balls and two strikes was the count to Oriole first baseman Jeff McKnight in the second inning. Deuces were wild.
So was Mark Langston.
Langston's 2-and-2 slider was in on McKnight, who hit it into center field for a run-scoring single. Rene Gonzales, a Dodger Stadium usher during his days at Glendale College, tripled to right-center off another pitch that was up, ushering in two more runs.
Two and two-thirds innings of work, and Langston was gone, with three walks, six hits and eight runs charged to him in an 11-6 loss to Baltimore that dropped the Angels to sixth place, a game out of last.
Langston, who has lost 10 of his last 11 decisions and reached a career-low with his 15th defeat Sunday, departed before speaking with reporters, leaving Manager Doug Rader and catcher Bill Schroeder to describe his pain and praise his persistence. There's no doubt that Langston (5-15) is unhappy with his results, but it's also clear that he's not pitching effectively.
The $16-million left-hander has been pulled after 2 2/3 innings in three of his last five starts. Two of those abbreviated starts were at Anaheim Stadium, where he's 1-9 and where a crowd of 33,657 fans booed him with fervor Sunday. He has allowed 29 earned runs in his last 20 innings, an earned-run average of 13.05. Overall his ERA is 4.79, and he's four losses from tying the club record for most defeats in a season, shared by George Brunet, Clyde Wright and Frank Tanana.
"When it's all over, we're going to be very, very happy we signed Mark Langston, and he'll be worth every nickel that we spent on him," said Rader, who rejected the notion of moving Langston to the bullpen as not beneficial for the 29-year-old left-hander. "Emotionally, the young man is going to be a very strong human being when he breaks through this ordeal."
It's difficult to say when Langston will make that breakthrough, because he's shown few signs of improvement. In his only victory in two months, 11-5 over the Minnesota Twins Aug. 1, he gave up four earned runs. It's just as difficult to say why he's flailing about and why he couldn't subdue the Orioles, who had lost five of six and were desperate to win Sunday to stay in the AL East chase.
"I don't talk about other people's players," Baltimore Manager Frank Robinson said when asked his impressions of Langston.
He then permitted himself a small smile. "Especially if they're struggling," he said.
Langston got through the first inning easily but struggled in the second, walking Cal Ripken Jr., striking out Mickey Tettleton, walking Craig Worthington and striking out Bob Melvin to reach that two-on, two-out point. But even the 3-0 deficit produced by the hits of McKnight and Gonzales would have been manageable, because Dave Winfield doubled and scored on Brian Downing's single in the bottom of the second inning to cut the Oriole lead to 3-1.
The game came apart for Langston in the third inning, when the Orioles scored six times, all with two out. Tettleton, Melvin and McKnight had RBI singles before Langston was relieved by Cliff Young, and Gonzales drove in the final two runs charged to Langston with a double to right. Of the last 35 runs Langston has yielded in seven games, 19 have been scored with two out, one of the few patterns of his dreadful season.
"He wasn't getting his breaking ball over, and he was getting behind in the count," Schroeder said. "It's kind of frustrating as a catcher, knowing the kind of stuff he has and for him to get hit like that. It's not like they whacked the ball, although they did hit some decent pitches. Everything he threw up there, they were getting base hits.
"During games, he goes hard. He does not let down. You go out and talk to him and he's looking at you and listening, but you can sense his frustration when he gets taken out. . . . He's going to come out one day and throw a shutout and get back to normal. Until that time, Lance (Parrish) and I are going to have to find a way to get him through it."
Gonzales, who had 40 friends and relatives on hand to enjoy his three-hit, four-RBI day, agreed that Langston had some problems with his breaking pitches and got into jams because he fell behind the batters. But Gonzales still respects him.
"You know he's going to get back on fire because he is Mark Langston; he's proven it year after year," said Gonzales, who was drafted by the Montreal Expos and acquired by the Orioles in December, 1986. "I'm just glad we could get in and out of here when he wasn't on fire."
Langston's ordeal continues. "He's going through a tough time, and I don't expect you (reporters) to understand what he's going through," Rader said. "If we had the answer, he wouldn't be going through this mental anguish. It takes a lot of fortitude to continue. He deserves a lot of credit for being able to persevere."
Bert Blyleven, who left Friday's game after six innings because of shoulder soreness, was found to have a strained right shoulder when he was examined Sunday by Dr. Lewis Yocum. The 39-year-old right-hander will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
The activation of left-hander Bob McClure is more likely than ever after Cliff Young's four-inning, 10-hit performance Sunday, Young's second consecutive shaky outing. Young, who gave up the most hits by a reliever in any appearance this season, could be sent back to triple-A Edmonton.
Brian Downing's two-run home run in the sixth inning was the 245th homer of his career, tying him for 98th on the all-time list with Deron Johnson, the Angels' hitting instructor. Downing was two for three, giving him nine hits in 11 at-bats--including three doubles and three home runs--and a season-high .295 average.
ANGEL ATTENDANCE Sunday: 51,597
1990 (59 dates): 1,966,378
1989 (59 dates): 1,896,907
1990 Average: 33,328