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2 Rookie Mistakes Help Joyner, Angels Produce 2-1 Victory

Times Staff Writer

If the Boston Red Sox finish the season in the same position they find themselves this morning--one game behind American League East-leading Detroit--they might not even remember a hot, humid September eve in Anaheim.

But Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Angels in front of 33,376 at Anaheim Stadium was the kind of game that separates the postseason players from the playoff watchers.

Detroit had already lost and the Red Sox were a couple of measly runs away from a first-place tie when Boston’s Dennis Lamp came in from the bullpen to start the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie. Lamp retired the first two batters--pinch-hitter Brian Downing and Dick Schofield--in a hurry on a lazy fly ball and a routine grounder to third.

Then second baseman Mark McLemore, who had bounced back to the pitcher twice and grounded out to second once, dragged a bunt for a single.

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“I looked around and saw a lot of room,” McLemore said. “The first baseman (Todd Benzinger) was playing back.”

Everyone in the park knew McLemore would try to steal second. The question was when. McLemore picked his spot, got a “pretty good jump” and slid headlong into second well ahead of catcher Rich Gedman’s throw.

Lamp then walked Johnny Ray and Boston Manager Joe Morgan decided to give rookie left-hander Mike Rochford a baptism of fire. Rochford, making his major-league debut, came in to pitch to Wally Joyner.

Rochford, using an exaggerated side-arm, cross-fire motion, blew two strikes past Joyner, who stood frozen at the plate. Then he just missed outside with another sidearm fastball. The rookie obviously had the upper hand, but he made a two-fold blunder. Mistake No. 1: He decided to go with a three-quarters-motion slider. Mistake No. 2: He hung it.

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Joyner stroked a soft line-drive single to right, McLemore slid across home with the go-ahead run and three outs later, the Red Sox were still trailing the Tigers by one.

“He made three great pitches and then he hung that one from over the top,” Morgan said. “That’s how you learn things about a player. Well, you can see I’m not afraid to use people . . .

“Damn. Lamp had such an easy inning going. And after I saw Rochford’s first three pitches to Joyner, I said, ‘No way he gets a hit off him.’ If he had stayed down (with the sidearm delivery), he’d have given him a lot of trouble.”

After getting the game-winning hit, Joyner told Benzinger that he was having real trouble picking up the ball when Rochford was throwing sidearm. The information reached Rochford too late, however.

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“I wish I’d have known that then,” he said, managing a smile. “I was just trying to mix it up a little. The slider wasn’t that terrible of a pitch. It was a little high and not far enough outside, but it wasn’t like he was going to drive it out of the park or anything. It was just a pitch he could get the bat on. . . . and he did.

“I wasn’t surprised to get the call. I expected to get the call in that situation because I’m usually pretty tough on left-handed hitters. I wasn’t nervous, either. I felt very relaxed and my concentration was good. I just didn’t get the job done.

“It’s just that I feel like I let the guys down. It’s such a close race and every game means something.”

The Red Sox still have 27 games left and they’re certainly not conceding anything yet. But if they do come up short at season’s end, Morgan might wake up some October night in a sweat, with bad dreams about a sweaty night in Anaheim and a rookie’s slider that hung like the humidity.

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