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Angels Are Shut Out but Aren’t Impressed

Times Staff Writer

Speak softly and carry a big stick? Monday night against Greg Swindell and the Cleveland Indians, the Angels got it backward.

After managing one hit through eight innings and adding a bloop single in the top of the ninth, after losing, 3-0, at Cleveland Stadium to make Swindell a 6-0 pitcher, the Angels decided to let their mouths do what their bats couldn’t--the talking.

“He threw a good game, he’s 6-0, I’m not impressed,” was Chili Davis’ cryptic review of Swindell’s first career 2-hitter. “I won’t give any pitcher any credit, unless he’s on my team. I don’t think he’d give me any credit if it was the other way around.

“He threw a good game and I tip my hat to him. But, we really helped him.”

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Across the Angel clubhouse, Wally Joyner also claimed to be underwhelmed.

“How many strikeouts did he have?” Joyner asked, already knowing the answer. “Four? Four strikeouts in nine innings? That means we were putting the ball in play against him.

“They just caught all our balls. I thought we hit the ball very well tonight. They caught everything we hit.”

For the sake of discussion, let us examine the two points put forward by Joyner and Davis.

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First, how the Angels hit the ball:

Through the first eight innings, the only thing separating Swindell from a no-hit bid was a second-inning double by--of course--Johnny Ray, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. Dick Schofield accounted for the Angels’ only other hit--an opposite-field bloop single to open the ninth inning--and the team’s only other line drive--a sixth-inning liner into the gap that Indian center fielder Joe Carter intercepted with a running catch.

All told, the Angels hit 10 balls out of the infield. Their only other potential hit was Bob Boone’s sharp grounder in the eighth inning, negated by Cleveland second baseman Julio Franco’s sprinting scoop-and-throw.

Next up, Point No. 2. How the Angels helped Swindell:

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Here, we consult Davis and Joyner again. Both committed errors that led to Cleveland runs.

In the second inning, Davis played croquet wicket to Mel Hall’s right-field single, letting the ball skip through his legs and letting Brook Jacoby score from first base. Then, in the fifth inning, Joyner misplayed a Willie Upshaw grounder to set the stage for an unearned run that eventually led to the ouster of Angel starter Willie Fraser (3-1).

For Davis, botching routine singles into extra bases has become a routine. He committed a similar error Sunday in Toronto and now has 5 errors.

“You tell me what I’m doing wrong,” Davis told reporters, warming up for another verbal barrage. “I don’t know. I know I have no play at third (on Hall’s single) and I’m just trying to get in front of (the ball).

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“Errors tick me off--more than going 0 for 4. I’d rather get clunked in the head than make an error.

“Look at the errors I’ve made. One ball in Oakland hits me in the glove and then falls out. In Seattle, I run over to make a catch and the ball comes out. I get a ground ball (against Seattle in Anaheim), I charge it so (Ken) Phelps won’t go home--and the ball snakes me.

“The ball yesterday hit off my knee, my chest, the dugout bench. Tonight, damn, it was ridiculous. A routine play. Big league ballplayers are supposed to make routine plays.”

OK. So the Angels hit the ball--but not at the right places. And the Indians hit the ball--but not at the right places, either.

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Right at Angel gloves.

All this lack of enthusiasm over Swindell’s pitching eventually got back to Swindell, as it usually does. And Swindell responded not in anger, but more in amusement.

“They were the ones swinging the bats,” Swindell said. “It wasn’t me.

“I thought I pitched a hell of a game. This is the best game I’ve pitched so far. To do better than this, I’d have to pitch a 1-hitter or a no-hitter.

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“If the Angels say they helped me, well, I’ll take all the help I can get.”

Of course, reality was a scarce commodity in the Angel clubhouse Monday night. With their second consecutive loss, the Angels slipped to 10-15 overall and, more significantly, 8 games behind the first-place Oakland Athletics in the American League West. In their last 14 games, the Angels are 4-10.

Yet, there was Joyner, jousting windmills and telling reporters, “I think we’re playing good, and we’re going to continue playing good.”

At 10-15?

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“We’re playing good, but we’re losing,” Joyner said. “Tonight, we played a good game and lost; those things are going to happen. Earlier in the season, we came up with some bad breaks. Oakland came back in the eighth and ninth innings to beat us a couple of times.

“I think we can beat anybody we play--and we will beat anybody we play. What do we have, 15 losses? We have about 45 to go before we panic.”

A trend seems to be developing, although the Angels have yet to recognize it. But then, they also fail to recognize a dominant pitching performance when one is thrown at them.

What we have here is a team lacking in recognition.

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Angel Notes

In a matchup of the unexpectedly unbeatens, Willie Fraser lasted just 4 innings against Greg Swindell en route to his first defeat in four decisions. Fraser yielded 7 hits and walked 4 as he allowed all three of the Indians’ runs. “He got the ball up and he got hit,” Angel Manager Cookie Rojas said of Fraser. “Three runs is not too much to give up, but he got in trouble in the fifth inning. The error (by Wally Joyner) cost him one run, but in that situation, I thought he had enough.” Said Fraser: “I didn’t get the job done. I didn’t get the ball where it should have been and I was fighting myself a little bit. I had the same velocity as I did in my other four starts, but my location was a little poor.” . . . Rojas, on Chili Davis’ defensive struggles: “He’s having some problems right now. A ground ball like that tonight should be caught. Maybe he is not watching the ball. He’s got to concentrate on catching the ball first and watching the runner second.” . . . Greg Minton pitched his first simulated game Monday evening, completing the equivalent of two innings. “He threw everything, fastballs, breaking balls, and there was no pain,” Angel physical therapist Roger Williams said. “He didn’t throw any curveballs, but he’s using a slider instead. Greg throws the slider like a fastball, and it puts less strain on his arm than a curve.” Minton is scheduled to pitch another simulated game in Anaheim Wednesday and, if all goes well, he’ll be sent to Palm Springs over the weekend to be a rehabilitative assignment.


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