It should have been one of the greatest days in Don Sutton's career.
Instead, it became just another day in his quest for 300 career victories. His pitching performance was neither pretty nor particularly poignant, and he allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings and did not figure in the decision.
California eventually won the game, 6-5, on Doug DeCinces' homer to lead off the eighth before a crowd of 40,005 at Anaheim Stadium.
Doug Corbett pitched the last two innings to earn the victory and even his record at 1-1.
Sutton entered this season needing five victories to become the 19th pitcher to win 300, yet he has become inconsistent and unreliable. He is 4-5 with a 5.56 earned run average after 13 starts and has given up a team-high 15 home runs. He is not scheduled to pitch again until Friday in Kansas City.
"If they came easily, there would be two or three hundred guys with 300 wins," he said. "They gave me enough runs to win today, but I blew it . . . But my 300th win will come eventually. I'll get other chances."
Sutton, whose career record is 299-233, had two leads to work with, 4-1 and 5-4. Neither was enough.
He left with one out in the seventh after he walked Willie Wilson, hit Lonnie Smith with a pitch and then threw two balls to Rudy Law. As he left the field, Sutton received a standing ovation, a gesture that caused him the most regret.
"These people don't even know me that well," he said. "I haven't been here that long. But that was my first standing ovation in a long time and it felt really, really special."
He paused. "I just wish that 300 wins could have come here and come today."
Left-hander Terry Forster came on in relief, but he promptly gave up a single to Law that scored Wilson to tie the score and thereby end Sutton's chance of winning.
"When I came over here from the Atlanta Braves , the thing I was most excited about was the chance to get in on his 300th win," said Forster, who retired the next two hitters without incident. "I would have died for the chance to save this game for him."
The Angels got Sutton a 4-1 lead on a two-run homer by Wally Joyner and Rob Wilfong's RBI single in the first and Ruppert Jones' bases-empty home run in the second.
Although Kansas City rallied to tie the score on home runs by Smith and Buddy Biancalana and Jorge Orta's run-scoring single in the third, California went back on top, 5-4, when Reggie Jackson singled home Joyner in the fifth.
But the Angels were otherwise held in check by starter Dennis Leonard, who struck out 10 and retired the side in order three times. Reliever Bud Black (3-4) came on with none out in the seventh and eventually took the loss when he gave up DeCinces' homer an inning later.
"We obviously wanted to win for Don," DeCinces said. "We gave him the opportunities, but he couldn't hold on . . . It was difficult after we got a lead to give up runs we couldn't do anything about.
"We'll just have to go back and do it again. I think everybody in here would have appreciated it, doing it on his first chance, being at home, 40,000 people, national TV. I mean, everything was in line for us to do it, it just didn't work out that way."
"Don Sutton is going to get his 300th," Royals Manager Dick Howser said. "I just hope it's not next Friday in Kansas City."