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Angels Discover Some Hit Men in New Lineup

Times Staff Writer

The Angels arrived at work Saturday and discovered vandals.

Gone from the Angel starting lineup were outfielder Ruppert Jones and second baseman Rob Wilfong, players who have been appearing regularly against right-handed pitchers in 1986. This time, they were no-shows against Cleveland Indians starter Tom Candiotti.

Also misplaced was Brian Downing, who found himself in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. Gary Pettis made his first appearance as the No. 2 batter. Left-hander Jack Howell was out, and right-hander Doug DeCinces was in at third base after a week’s absence--and batting cleanup. Right-hander George Hendrick was unexpectedly present. First baseman Wally Joyner, who began the day in an 0-for-15 slump, was gone from his usual No. 2 or No. 3 spot and dropped to sixth in the batting order.

But thievery has its rewards, in this case an 8-2 Angel victory over the Indians before a Municipal Stadium crowd of 20,010.

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Manager Gene Mauch happily confessed to initiating the lineup changes. Had to do it, he said. “If you’re in a little funk like we were in, you don’t bury yourself in despair, you try to do something about it.”

Little funk?

The Angels (27-27) had gone 21 innings before getting their fourth hit and scoring their first run, a two-out, second-inning double by shortstop Dick Schofield that brought Hendrick in from second. Fate surely was on the Angels’ side Saturday. Hendrick had moved into scoring position with a stolen base, only his second since 1983. And entering the game, Hendrick was 4 for 21 (.190) against right-handers. Saturday, he singled in his two at-bats against loser Candiotti and scored twice.

Joyner, too, was having his problems before finding his name lower in the lineup. To heck with the batting average, he had just two runs batted in and one home run since May 27. At one point, he was 0 for 17, 3 for 25, 5 for 38.

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“Moving Joyner around in the lineup . . . that just gives him a different outlook on things,” Mauch said. “It’s just different. It’s not the same old routine. The old routine wasn’t getting it.”

So, of course, Joyner responded with a sixth-inning double (and scored) and an eighth-inning home run, his 18th homer of the season, to raise his average to .290 and improve his RBI total to 44. Both of the hits came off left-handed reliever Bryan Oelkers.

"(Mauch) didn’t tell me why he did it, but I think he changed the lineup around for a reason,” Joyner said. “I think it was just a matter of trying something new, trying something different in order to get something going. We were stagnant, stale, in a rut, just doing the same thing over.

“It wasn’t a matter of him giving up on me,” Joyner said. “I don’t think that was it, at all. I don’t think anybody has given up on anybody. We can all still play and we’re going to continue to play well.”

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There were other notable performances. Reggie Jackson had a third-inning RBI double that scored catcher Bob Boone from second and Pettis from first. That gave the Angels a 3-0 lead that soon was extended to 6-0. DeCinces doubled home Jackson and later scored when Hendrick’s single to left was fielded by Otis Nixon and promptly thrown to the backstop. Hendrick moved to second on the throwing error and, after advancing to third on Joyner’s ground-out, scored on a Candiotti wild pitch.

The Indians hit consecutive homers in the fourth--one by Andre Thornton and the other by Mel Hall--to cut the lead to 6-2, but that was it. The Angels scored another run in the sixth and another in the eighth on Joyner’s homer to help present starter Mike Witt (6-4), who lasted eight-plus innings Saturday, with the victory. Witt allowed eight hits and two walks, and struck out five. Doug Corbett pitched the final inning.

Jackson remains the lone Angel regular hitting above .300. He’s at .304. And DeCinces, who has struggled, in part because of a mildly separated left shoulder, made his return to the starting lineup memorable with three hits in five at-bats, his first multiple-hit game since May 13.

“I couldn’t swing the bat,” DeCinces said. “I was struggling. I’m not going to make any excuses--I just didn’t hit.”

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These have been interesting times for DeCinces. He is in the last year of his contract, and the Angels have said they have no plans to open negotiations until the conclusion of the season. DeCinces also has had to share time at third with Howell. Then came his shoulder injury.

“I played for two weeks trying to do the best I could, tried my best, and it didn’t work,” said DeCinces, who began the day at .223, with just eight hits in his last 51 at-bats. “I still went out there.”

Angel Notes Brian Downing became the sixth leadoff man Manager Gene Mauch has tried this season (Ruppert Jones, Gary Pettis, Rick Burleson, Bobby Grich and Rob Wilfong are the others). Downing went 0 for 4, lowering his average to .278. Said Mauch: “Brian would rather eat a green fly than lead off, and I know it. But he loves to win, and I know that, too.” . . . Except for the consecutive homers he gave up to Andre Thornton and Mel Hall in the fourth, Mike Witt said he pitched well. After the second homer, Witt said he had a talk with himself on the mound. “You’ve just got to ask yourself what you did wrong,” he said. “I immediately go back to my mechanics. I should have done it right after the first one.” . . . Wally Joyner has hit home runs against all 10 of the American League teams he has faced. Remaining are the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.


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