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Random Jays Recap: Jays @ Angels, July 17, 1986

Jesse Barfield
Jesse Barfield

Today’s random Jays recap comes from July 17, 1986, the Jays 10th season in MLB.

Blue Jays 8 Angels 5

Coming into this game the Jays were 47-43, good for 5th spot in the AL East, 10.5 games back of the lead leading Red Sox.

The Angels were 48-39, sitting in first in the AL West, 1.5 games up on the Rangers.

Our starting pitcher was Jimmy Key. Key was in his 3rd season in the MLB and 2nd as a starting pitcher. Back then the Jays tended to use rookie pitchers in the bullpen, feeling it was a good way to introduce them to the majors. I still think it would be a good idea, but I’m alone on that.

Key came into the game with a 9-6 record, and a 4.37 ERA. His last start was a loss, but he went 7 innings of 2 run ball. He was on a stretch where he had pitched 7 innings or more in each of his last 7 starts (including a 10 inning complete game).

Starting for the Angels was Don Sutton. Don was 41. He would pitch 2 more seasons after this season. Sutton had a terrific career, pitching 23 seasons, with a 324-256 record and a 3.26 ERA, in 774 games, 756 starts. It took the BBWAA five tries to elect him into the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to believe that a guy with 324 wins couldn’t get into the Hall his first 4 times. He threw 200+ innings 20 times.

Coming into this game Sutton had an 8-5 record with a 4.34.



Tony Fernandez, SS Rick Burleson, DH
Rance Mulliniks, 3B Wally Joyner, 1B
Lloyd Moseby, CF Brian Downing, LF
George Bell, LF Doug DeCinces, 3B
Jesse Barfield, RF George Hendrick, RF
Willie Upshaw, 1B Bobby Grich, 2B
Cliff Johnson, DH Dick Schofield, SS
Ernie Whitt, C Bob Boone, C
Damaso Garcia, 2B Gary Pettis, CF

We got a run in the top of the first. Rance Mulliniks, batting second, walked, went to third on a Lloyd Moseby single and scored on a throwing error on a George Bell fly ball.

The Angels didn’t waste any time tying the game back up. Rick Burleson hit Key’s second pitch of the game out of the park. Burleson had been the Red Sox’ shortstop from 1974 to 1980. Then he was part of a big trade to the Angels. He was a type of middle infielder you don’t really see anymore. He was a star, but he really didn’t do anything particularly well. He wasn’t great defensively. He didn’t get on base a lot. Had no power (never once slugging .400) and really didn’t steal much (72 career steals, 68 times caught). And yet he always seemed to hit at the top of the order.

Anyway, after the trade to the Angels, he had one full season and then would play only 51 games over the next 4 seasons, missing time with a bunch of injuries. 1986 was kind of a comeback year. He was 35 and played mostly DH. He hit .284/.363/.391 in 93 games. The next year he would play with the Orioles and then he was out of baseball.

Both pitchers settled down and no one scored until again until the 5th inning.

We broke it open in the 5th, scoring 5 runs:

  • Cliff Johnson walked.
  • Ernie Whitt singled.
  • Damoso Garcia double home both.
  • Tony Fernandez singled.
  • Rance Mulliniks hit a three-run homer.

And that was it for Sutton. 4 innings, 6 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned, 3 walks with 4 strikeouts.

Cliff Johnson had an interesting back story. Cliff was a Blue Jay in 1983 and 1984. After the 1984 season, he signed with the Rangers as a free agent. Back in the 1980’s, there was a much different was to compensate teams for losing free agents than there is today. In the early 80’s, the MLB owners wanted some way to compensate teams that lost star players to free agency. What happened was the team losing the free agent could pick a player from a pool from all the teams. Teams could protect 26 players. The player the Jays picked was Tom Henke from the Rangers. Then, mid-way through the 1985 season, the Jays traded 3 minor leaguers (who never became anything) to get Cliff back. Basically, we got Henke for 4 months worth of Cliff Johnson.

The Angels got a run back in the bottom of the inning (Doug DeCinces drove in Burleson). After 5 innings we were up 6-2.

We’d score 1 more in the 7th. Lloyd Moseby drove in Damaso Garcia. Chuck Finley was in the game at this point. Finley, like Key, was a left-handed pitcher who came up as a reliever but went on to have a very good career as a starter. Finley would win 200 games in a 17 year career.

And 1 more in the 8th. Willie Upshaw started the inning with a double, moved to third on an Ernie Whitt single and scored on a Garcia ground out.

The Angels got 1 run in the 9th. Brian Downing singled, Ruppert Jones doubled off Mark Eichhorn. John Cerutti came in to get the last two outs, giving up a run-scoring ground ball, and hitting a batter.

Key went 6 innings, allowed 8 hit, 3 runs, 2 earned, 6 walks and 5 strikeouts. 14 baserunners allowed, but just 3 runs.

Eichhorn pitched 2.1, allowed 5 hits, 2 earned with 3 strikeouts. Mark was having an amazing rookie season. He’d finish with a 1.72 ERA in 157 relief innings. He finished 6th in Cy Young voting and 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting.

Cerutti got the last 2 outs and picked up his first MLB save (he would end up with 4 in his career).

Jays of the Day: Key (.126 WPA, he allowed 14 baserunners, but only 3 runs, 2 earned), Garcia (.129, 2 for 4, 3 RBI) and Mulliniks (.102, 1 for 2, homer, walk, only had 3 PA, Garth Iorg pinch hit for him in the 7th).

No Suckage Jays.

The Angels had three of the most underrated players in baseball that season:

  • Bobby Grich was a terrific player, really should be in the Hall of Fame. Played 17 seasons was a very good defensive 2B (4 Gold Gloves), hit .266/.371/.424 with 224 homers in 2008. He doesn’t get the credit he deserved because the batting average wasn’t great and that the Writers don’t know what to do with players who did everything well but didn’t have that one stat they could point at.
  • Doug DeCinces was a good defensive third baseball. Had a lot of power (in 1986 he had 26 home runs in his age 35 season), 237 homer career, .259/.329/.445 line in 1649 games. The Angels got DeCinces in trade from the Orioles for Dan Ford. The trade was highway robbery. Ford played parts of four seasons with the Orioles, hit .249/.298/.384 with 21 home runs in 279 games. It isn’t just today’s Orioles that are run poorly.
  • Brian Downing was the poster child for the Bill James led, newly started, sabermetrics movement. He came up as a catcher (and he wasn’t a very good catcher), but he could get on base. Angels management manager Jim Fregosi saw his value, turned him into an outfielder and told him to get on base. He did just that, in 1986 he had a .267/.389/.452 line with 20 home runs. He’d bat leadoff. Back then leadoff hitters ran fast. Downing didn’t run well at all, but the Angels wanted someone on base for Grich, DeCinces and Reggie Jackson (who pinch-hit in this game).

The Angels also had a young outfielder Devon White, just 23, who got into 23 games that year.

Of course, we had some pretty good players, too, George Bell (.309/.319/.532 with 31 home runs that year), Lloyd Moseby (.253/.329/.418 with 21 home runs) and Jesse Barfield (.289/.368/.559 with 40 home runs) were the best outfield in baseball in that era and the best outfield the Jays ever had.