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Boone Delivers Key Hit in 3-2 Angel Win

Times Staff Writer

You try telling Bob Boone that his 40-year-old, surgically scarred knees have endured more than 2,000 major league games behind the plate and suggest he might be playing on borrowed time.

Boone will listen and laugh and then suggest he’d like to borrow a little more.

“At my age,” Boone says, “you’re always playing under the question, ‘Can I play another year?’ And this year, I think I’ve answered that question to myself and other people.

“Yes, I can.”

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Boone keeps proving the point, time after surprising time, as he continues to bat more than 40 points above his career average. Friday night against the Boston Red Sox, Boone drove in the tying and winning runs with a two-run single off Bruce Hurst in the seventh inning, giving the Angels a 3-2 victory before 29,325 at Anaheim Stadium.

It also deprived Boston of two significant accomplishments:

--First, with a win the Red Sox could have tied Detroit for first place in the American League East.

--And with a win, Hurst could have extended his personal streak to eight straight victories.

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Instead, Boston remained one game behind the Tigers, Hurst fell to 16-5 and Boone gave Angel General Manager Mike Port a few more reasons to consider bringing back a 41-year-old catcher for the 1989 season.

After taking a career average of .250 into this season, Boone is batting .292, and this is September. He also has 36 RBIs, which is already three more than his 1987 total.

OK, so we’ve got the idea. Boone can still hit.

But get this: Sometimes, Boone can still run.

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With two out in the fifth inning, Boone completely startled Hurst and Boston catcher Rick Cerone by taking off and, yes, attempting to steal second base. Better than that, he stole it, barely beating Cerone’s hurried one-hop throw.

A moment of silence, please. For Boone, this was his first stolen base since Sept. 18, 1986--a span of 239 games. It was also his 10th stolen base as an Angel--in seven seasons.

“I had nothing to lose,” Boone said. “They were playing behind me and with Larry Parrish playing first base, I didn’t think they’d be doing any trick plays. (Parrish plays there sparingly.) Hurst was throwing really tough at the time. If the score had been anything else, I wouldn’t have taken the risk.”

Hurst was working with a 2-1 lead at the time. Boone would wind up stranded at second base and Hurst would take a three-hitter into the seventh inning.

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But in the seventh, Boone struck again, with an assist from the Boston defense.

Tony Armas opened the inning by drawing a walk, moved to second on an infield out and took third on a single by Mike Brown. Then with Boone at bat, Hurst attempted to pick Brown off first.

As soon as he did, Armas wandered off third base, drawing a throw across the infield from Parrish.

The ball skipped in front of Boston third baseman Wade Boggs and rolled far enough to allow Brown to advance to second. From there, he and Armas both scored on Boone’s single under the glove of a diving Reed.

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“We got a good break,” Boone said, referring to Parrish’s throw. “We had a squeeze play on that didn’t work.”

That’s why Armas was hung up off third base.

And that’s why when Parrish wound up to deliver his throw, Angel Manager Cookie Rojas said, “I almost had a heart attack.”

When the dust, and Rojas’ nerves, settled, the Angels had two runners in scoring position for Boone.

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Boone set out to hit a grounder behind the runners--"I was playing for one run at the time,” he said--but instead wound up grounding the ball to the left of second base and bringing in two runs.

Those runs made a loser of Hurst (16-5) for the first time since July 6 and a winner of Chuck Finley (9-12). Finley worked a less-than-masterful seven innings--he surrendered seven hits, including a Jim Rice home run, and four walks--but managed to hold the Red Sox to two runs.

Bryan Harvey pitched the final two innings for the Angels and earned his 14th save. Harvey gave up singles in both the eighth and ninth innings but retired the last three Red Sox he faced.

As a result, Boone had his second game-winning hit of the season. And his first stolen base.

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Also some words of praise from his manager.

“He’s having the best year of his career,” Rojas said. “The way he keeps himself in shape, he earns it.”

Along the way, Boone hopes, an Angel contract for 1989 will also be earned.

Angel Notes

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Last year, Kirk McCaskill’s season ended Sept. 4, when a sore shoulder sidelined him for the rest of the Angels’ 1987 schedule. And now, a hand injury threatens to make Aug. 8 McCaskill’s last start of 1988. That’s two aborted seasons in as many years and McCaskill concedes he doesn’t “relish the idea of getting a reputation as a guy who’s always getting hurt. I don’t want to be known as a guy who gets hurt every year. I’m paid to pitch and I’m still being paid but I’m not pitching and that bothers me. It bothers me a lot.” McCaskill briefly had his hopes raised earlier this week when Dr. Stephen Levy, a neurosurgeon, examined the hand and diagnosed an inflamed tendon as the source of the pain. But Thursday, hand specialist Dr. Norman Zemel contradicted that opinion by seconding Dr. Lewis Yocum’s original diagnosis: an irritation of dorsal branch of radial nerve.

“That was bad news,” McCaskill said. “With a tendon, you shoot it with cortisone and I might be pitching again in a week. But with a nerve, the only thing that will heal it is rest.” With this season beginning its final month, that doesn’t leave McCaskill much time to rest. “I’ll be out 10 days or so and, then, if it heals, it would probably take me a week to 10 days to get ready again,” McCaskill said. “By then, there would be only a couple of weeks left in the season.” Does McCaskill expect to pitch again in 1988? “I’d say it’s unlikely,” he said.

Devon White (sprained ankle) missed his fourth straight game and probably won’t play again until the Angels open a seven-game trip at Kansas City on Monday. “He tried to run a little on it today, but he still can’t run that well,” Angel Manager Cookie Rojas said. “He can swing the bat good from the left side, but he’s still just so-so from the right. He’s also had problems with his knee this year, I don’t want to put him in there too soon and take a chance of him messing up one or the other.”


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