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Romanick Decides He’d Rather Go to Slider Than Edmonton, Wins, 6-2

Times Staff Writer

The slider used to be Ron Romanick’s best pal, a pitch to count on when everything else failed, a pitch to remember in troubled times. Two men on first and second, one out? No problem: slider . . . double play.

Then came June.

June has been a cruel month for Romanick. Entering Friday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Romanick was 0-3 this month with a 9.45 earned-run average. ERA’s of 9.45 usually earn you trips to the bullpen or, worse yet, visits to such exotic outposts as Edmonton, Canada, where the Angels’ Triple-A team is located.

Romanick would prefer to stay where he is, which is smack-dab in the Angel starting rotation and out of any fenced-in areas that contain Terry Forster or any other reliever, for that matter. And thanks all the same, Romanick wants his mailing address to read Anaheim , not somewhere north of the border.

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Romanick can rest easily. An old friend--that slider--provided the necessary assistance, as did outfielder Ruppert Jones, who continues to bang out extra-base hits as if they were on sale at concession stands everywhere. By game’s end, the Angels had a 6-2 victory over the Royals, not to forget a four-game win streak that kept them within one game of the first-place Texas Rangers.

Meanwhile, Romanick may have saved himself an unpleasant meeting with Manager Gene Mauch. It all depends on how you look at such things.

Mauch described Romanick’s Friday night outing as “damn important.”

Said Mauch: “There comes a time when you have to impress. There comes a time when you have to pitch an impressive game, and that time had come. It was borderline vital that he pitch a good ballgame.”

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Mauch talked about Romanick’s sudden habit of issuing walks. He talked about Romanick’s inability to begin a game without allowing runs in bunches. Romanick’s last start, also against the Royals, lasted six innings and six runs.

“There just comes a time when a pitcher needs a win,” Mauch said, later adding that “nobody told (Romanick) he was going to the bullpen or nothing like that.”

Maybe not, but Mauch has made it clear that the Angels needed better than the 3-5 record and the 5.25 ERA that Romanick brought with him to Royals Stadium. No need for the reminder. Romanick knew.

“It’s not really a friendly business,” he said. “I’m not a rookie. I’ve been up here, this is my third year. The bottom line here is winning.”

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With that in mind, Romanick returned to the past and plucked his slider from whatever shelf it had been placed on, presumably forgotten. “Slider: it’s what got me here, it’s what’s going to keep me here,” he said. “I think I forgot to throw it the last month.”

History was not on Romanick’s side when he started the game. His last win was May 13. In his last five starts, he was 0-4 with a 6.11 ERA. In his three seasons, he was 3-6 on artificial surfaces. Royals Stadium has artificial turf. He had lost his last four games against the Royals. His last win on the road was April 11 at Oakland.

So, of course, Romanick lasted seven innings, allowing two runs, seven singles and a bloop double. Doug Corbett pitched the final two innings, marking the first time a member of the Angel bullpen has made an appearance since last Sunday.

Angel starters have allowed just three earned runs in the last four games. Three of the four wins were complete games.

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Jones, batting in the leadoff spot, began the game with a homer to right field, his seventh home run of the season and his eighth extra-base hit in his last nine at-bats. Five of the eight extra-base hits were home runs.

“There are stretches of two, three weeks where he’ll just pick you up and carry you around,” Mauch said of Jones.

Jones added a triple that scored Rick Burleson and Gary Pettis in the second. That made the score 3-0, soon to be 4-0 when Brian Downing scored on a sacrifice fly in the third inning. Downing had been hit on a pitch by Dennis Leonard (6-6) and moved to third on Reggie Jackson’s single, before scoring on the fly to left by Jack Howell.

The lead grew to 6-0 in the fifth. Downing doubled, and Howell, playing in place of Doug DeCinces, knocked him in with a double of his own. Rob Wilfong singled to score Howell.

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The Royals had their chances, but Romanick squirmed out of trouble by returning to the slider again and again. He walked two of the first three batters he faced in the game--and didn’t allow a run. “But he struggled his way through it,” Mauch said.

Two men reached base in the fifth, and Romanick escaped without allowing a score. The same thing happened in the sixth inning. A line drive by Steve Balboni to shortstop Burleson ended the threat. Romanick pointed at Balboni as he left the mound. “It was an at-em ,” Romanick said. “I had one of those coming to me. I have about 15 of those coming to me.”

The Royals scored one run in the seventh, but it could have been more had Romanick not coaxed Lonnie Smith and Mike Brewer into hitting ground balls. Smith’s grounder to second scored Buddy Biancalana, who had singled and moved to third on Willie Wilson’s dink double to left.

Romanick was gone in the eighth. George Brett singled to start the inning, which brought on Corbett. Brett later scored on a sacrifice fly by Balboni.

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Angel Notes

Pitcher John Candelaria’s scheduled start tonight in Visalia has been temporarily postponed because of the death of his stepfather Friday. Candelaria, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow, was to pitch for the Angels’ Class A Palm Springs team. But Candelaria, who flew to New York Friday with his wife, isn’t expected to return until Monday. If so, he will throw on the sidelines and start in Palm Springs Thursday. Candelaria was at Anaheim Stadium Friday morning, preparing for his workout, along with ailing pitchers Donnie Moore (shoulder) and Gary Lucas (back) when he received the news about his stepfather. Should Candelaria be unable to return by Monday, Manager Gene Mauch said he and General Manager Mike Port “have a contingency program.” Mauch didn’t elaborate. . . . Don Sutton, who gained his 300th career victory Wednesday night, said he has received congratulatory telegrams from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan, among others. He said he hasn’t had a chance to check his mail at his offices or at Anaheim Stadium. . . . Mauch hasn’t seen Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson play baseball, but he has read the scouting reports. The Angels, remember, drafted Jackson in 1985. This year, the Kansas City Royals took Jackson. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Jackson No. 1 in the NFL draft. “If he’s as good as I heard, he’d be making a bad mistake not to play this game,” Mauch said.


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