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Angel Bats Return to Life in 8-1 Victory : McCaskill Gets His First Win as Beniquez Enjoys a Four-Hit Night

Times Staff Writer

The series opener between the Angels and Texas Rangers Monday night started at 5:20, an hour at which the Angels are normally taking batting practice before a night game.

Could it be that the Angels thought they were doing just that?

Did Texas left-hander Mike Mason, with his 4-5 record and 5.05 earned-run average, resemble someone throwing batting practice?

That was the indication, at least, as the previously anemic Angels scored two runs in the first and three in the second en route to an 8-1 victory that represented Kirk McCaskill’s first in the majors.

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On a night when the Angels took the first step toward releasing Tommy John, putting a new emphasis on the promising, but unproven, arms of McCaskill and Rafael Lugo, who replaces John as tonight’s starter, McCaskill strengthened a tenuous hold on a starting berth with a seven-hitter that snapped his four-game losing streak.

An Anaheim Stadium crowd of 19,687 saw the 24-year-old right-hander do it in style, pitching his first complete game in the majors to help the Angels make it two straight wins in the wake of a three-game losing streak.

The Angels, who had scored only four runs in their last 49 innings and two in their last 35, collected 11 hits off Mason and three successors.

It was the laugher Manager Gene Mauch had promised when he kept insisting recently that his team would soon be having some fun.

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“It was just a matter of time before they put some runs on the board,” Mauch said Monday night. “If I had to worry about guys like Brian Downing and Doug DeCinces, I’d be in trouble. I’ve got more things to worry about than that. I just didn’t want them to forget how good they are.”

Among Monday night’s reminders were these:

--Downing, hitless in his previous 32 at-bats, doubled in a run in the first and had a sacrifice fly in the second. The RBIs were his first in 16 days.

--Mike Brown, who came in hitting .236, had an RBI single in the first, an RBI double in the second and an RBI fielders choice in the fourth while raising his average to .260.

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--Rob Wilfong, batting .182, hit his first home run in the fifth.

--Then there was Juan Beniquez, who scored three runs and drove in one as he singled, doubled and laced two triples in the first four-hit game by an Angel this season.

The performance by Beniquez, now hitting a club-leading .294, seemed to inspire a payback.

Batting against Dave Stewart with a 2-and-1 count in the eighth, Beniquez had to duck under a head-high fastball that shattered his bat. He got up, went to the dugout rack for a new one, returned to the batter’s box and delivered an RBI triple to left-center.

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And, once on third, Beniquez pointed at Stewart and said, “Take that.” The two exchanged words and began walking towards each other as the dugouts emptied. There were no punches though Beniquez fought Coach Moose Stubing’s restraining hold in an attempt to get at Stewart before peace was restored.

Asked later if he thought Stewart’s pitch was intentional, Beniquez said: “I had three hits and made a couple good plays. What do you think? I’ve never tried to hurt or show up anyone, but some people play differently.”

Of his ensuing triple, Beniquez smiled and said: “It felt good. I wanted to show him where my guts are.”

Mauch agreed, saying that a first-class knockdown pitch was answered by a first-class hitter.

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Stewart shook his head and said he was simply trying to pitch Beniquez tight, that he was willing to forget it but Beniquez kept talking.

“I’d had enough,” Stewart said of his decision to advance toward Beniquez on third. “I was willing to meet him halfway.”

In going all the way, McCaskill struck out seven while walking only one. He was scored on only in the third when Curt Wilkerson singled, Oddibe McDowell doubled and Buddy Bell hit a sacrifice fly.

McCaskill said he had never lost the confidence that he could pitch in the majors. But he had been going about it with timidity rather than challenging hitters.

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He struck out Larry Parrish and Gary Ward with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of this one, and later said of his first win: “I feel like I’ve got the monkey off my back. I’m as excited as a 10-year-old kid.”

Said Mauch, weighing McCaskill’s performance against the decision to release John: “Only time will tell if it’s right, but I have confidence in the kids. I know they have a chance to get better but the only way they can get better is by getting on the mound. Of course, if T.J. goes someplace and wins 10 games, then these kids better be damn good.”

Angel Notes Rod Carew, who went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot May 20 and was activated Monday, is expected to return to the lineup tonight against right-hander Dave Rozema (2-4). . . . The Angels apparently have competition in their bid for Cleveland’s Bert Blyleven. A source requesting anonymity said the Indians offered Blyleven to Minnesota Monday for second baseman Tim Teufel, catcher Dave Engle and Class-A pitcher Alan Sontag. The Twins are expected to reply today. . . . The Angels’ interest in Blyleven has been reportedly muted by Cleveland’s insistence that second-base prospect Mark McLemore be included in the deal.


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