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Romanick, Reggie Stop Indians, 4-0

Times Staff Writer

At 24, in his second season, Ron Romanick has become the stopper and bellwether of an Angel rotation that includes two rookies and four farm products.

The rookies--Kirk McCaskill, 24, and Urbano Lugo, 22--draw their toughest challenges tonight and Saturday, respectively, facing the White Sox in Comiskey Park. Chicago has the best home record (20-8) in the American League.

Romanick, aided by Reggie Jackson’s third homer in four games, helped move the Angels within a half-game of Western Division-leading Chicago with a 4-0 win over Cleveland Thursday night.

Each team had only four hits, and the Indians had only one over the final 6 innings as Romanick walked two, struck out two and made it six times this season that he has won in the wake of an Angel loss.

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His fourth complete game and first shutout improved his record to 8-3, a .723 percentage that is second in the league to the .800 of Detroit’s Walt Terrell (8-2).

The Angels have the league’s second-best team earned-run average, 3.51, which is a tribute to a bullpen that is 13-5 with 15 saves but also stems from the improved performance of the rebuilt rotation.

Over the last eight games, Angel pitchers have allowed just 16 runs. The yield by games: 2-1-4-3-1-3-2-0.

Plagued by offensive inconsistency, the Angels won only five of the eight, but the aforementioned numbers represent a championship foundation.

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Romanick, resembling a veteran in style and speech, said of the new rotation: “I’ve seen these guys (McCaskill and Lugo) pitch in the minors. They’re not greenhorns. They learn quickly.

“With Witter (Mike Witt) now starting to come on, we’re going to do well regardless of whether we get Bert Blyleven or not.”

Witt is 24. The only starter older than that is Jim Slaton, who is 35.

A pain stemming from the loss of Geoff Zahn and Ken Forsch now seems less acute.

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Said Manager Gene Mauch: “The kids have a chance to get better, but the only way they can do that is by pitching. There’s no timetable, no pressure--at least from our end. I want McCaskill and Lugo to have fun in Chicago. Enjoy it.”

Which is what Mauch did as he watched Romanick shut down Cleveland a night after Blyleven shut down the Angels, 2-0.

“The guy last night did it with a lot of power,” Mauch said. “The guy tonight did it with a lot of pitching.

“Curveball, fastball, straight change. When you’ve got two pitches, you can win. When you’ve got three, you can pitch a shutout.”

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Mauch also praised Romanick’s ability to manipulate the ball, taking “the straight out of his fastball,” making it three pitches in one.

Said Romanick: “I don’t throw 95 (m.p.h.), but I’ve always been able to cut my fastball to make it ride, tail or sail in on right-handed hitters. It’s not how hard you throw, it’s what you do with it. Movement.”

Jackson now is on the move, continuing a climb up the home-run ladder. Thursday night’s homer was his 10th of the season and 513th of his career, moving him into undisputed possession of 10th place on the all-time list ahead of Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews.

After getting only three hits off Blyleven, the Angels got only one more than that in this one. And all four came in the second inning, when they turned three walks and the four hits into their four runs.

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Doug DeCinces, who has hit safely in 14 of the last 15 games, started it with a double. Jackson then homered to left-center. Ruppert Jones beat out a one-out bunt, stole second, went to third on Bob Boone’s fly-out and came home on a double by Dick Schofield.

An ensuing walk to Gary Pettis prompted Manager Pat Corrales to lift starter and loser Don Schulze, who not only drew his seventh loss in 10 decisions but was informed later that he was being optioned to Cleveland’s Triple A affiliate in Maine.

Jamie Easterly replaced Schulze and walked two more batters, forcing in the fourth run.

Jackson was asked later why six of his 10 homers have been hit to left, his opposite field.

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“I probably don’t get around as well as I used to,” he said, “but it’s more a matter of how they’re pitching me.

“I’m also starting to swing a little better now, and I think that as my confidence develops in the second half, I’ll start turning on it and pulling more.”

Can he still stir the drink? The 39-year-old Jackson dismissed the three homers in four games and his club-leading 28 runs batted in.

“I’m having my little turn for a week or so,” he said humbly. “I used to do it for three or four months, but now I’m reduced to three or four days.

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“I’m looking forward to seeing Brian Downing (who has four hits in his last 57 at-bats and a .198 average) start swinging better and Doug DeCinces start hitting the long ball (he has six homers). That will make it a little easier for us. We need to score more runs.”

Angel Notes

The Indians have put Bert Blyleven on waivers again, meaning he could be traded if not claimed in the next five days. . . . There was an unconfirmed report by ESPN that Cleveland has made a Blyleven deal with Cincinnati. . . . Angel General Manager Mike Port returned to Anaheim Thursday, having seen more than he cared to see in Blyleven’s Wednesday night shutout. . . . The three-game series here drew a total of only 18,583 fans. . . . Ex-Angel Tommy John will join Tim McCarver on the broadcasting crew for ABC’s regional telecast of Monday night’s A’s-White Sox game in Oakland.


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