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Some Sloppy Play Helps Rangers Defeat Angels, 7-4

Times Staff Writer

One didn’t need to check the calendar or the American League West standings Saturday night to tell that the Angels have shifted into play-out-the-string mode.

Two outfield throws, one piece of baserunning and one managerial move provided all the necessary evidence during the Angels’ 7-4 loss to the Texas Rangers before 23,197 fans at Anaheim Stadium.

A brief rundown:

--In the second inning, with the Angels trailing, 4-0, and the Rangers’ Pete O’Brien on first base, Ruben Sierra singled to right field. Angel right fielder Chili Davis gloved the ball and threw to third base. O’Brien was safe at third, Sierra moved into second, the double-play opportunity was erased and O’Brien scored on a sacrifice fly.

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--In the sixth inning, with the Angels trailing, 5-0, and Brian Downing on first base, Wally Joyner singled into the gap in left-center--but tried to stretch it into a double. Joyner was thrown out easily at second base.

--In the seventh inning, with the Angels trailing, 6-2, and Sierra on second base and two out, Cecil Espy singled to center. Angel center fielder Devon White attempted to throw Sierra out at home, misfired badly and allowed Espy to take second on the throw.

Espy was eventually stranded at second, but afterward, Angel Manager Cookie Rojas chalked up the throw as another example of Angel minds straying from the task at hand.

“We probably gave away six runs,” Rojas said. “And on the ball Wally hit, he’s trying to go for an extra base five runs down.

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“If he holds at first base, we could maybe be looking at a four-run inning there.”

Instead, the Angels settled for two en route to their sixth defeat in their last seven games.

By the time the score reached 7-2, Rojas decided it was time to play for tomorrow and began clearing his bench. Tony Armas replaced White; Darrell Miller replaced Bob Boone.

And, most significantly, rookie Dante Bichette replaced Davis in right field.

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This maneuver in the top of the ninth inning stripped the Angels of their top run-producer in the bottom of the ninth inning. And when the Angels staged a mini-rally against the Ranger bullpen--scoring two runs on three hits and an error--Davis’ turn in the batting order came up with runners on first and second and two out.

But Davis and his 88 RBIs were long gone. Rojas was left with a choice of Bichette or George Hendrick and opted for the latter, sending Joggin’ George to bat representing the tying run against Texas reliever Dwayne Henry.

The Angels caught a break when Henry walked Hendrick. But with the bases loaded, Henry came back to get Johnny Ray to pop to first base to end the threat.

“It was a 7-2 ballgame, and I wanted to give (Davis) some time off,” Rojas explained. “Same with Boonie. We’ve got a day game (Sunday).

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“We had the right man, too, with Hendrick--and he walked. Then, we had Johnny Ray, our best hitter, at the plate after that. I see nothing wrong with any of that.”

Maybe a tighter game would have dictated different strategy by Rojas.

But the game got out of hand, at least in Rojas’ estimation, with the aid of the throws by White and Davis.

Of White’s, Rojas said: “With two out and a guy (Sierra) who can run like hell on second base, why throw home? You’ve got maybe one in a thousand chances of getting him out. It’s better to throw to second and keep the double-play situation.”

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The same goes for Davis’ relay to third base in the second inning, the manager maintained.

And that’s not even considering the first-inning line drive by Oddibe McDowell that struck the shin of Angel starter Terry Clark (6-5) and bounded away safely for a single, paving Texas’ way for a four-run inning.

“The first thing they tell you,” Rojas deadpanned, “is to field that ball with your glove, not your shin.”

Clark stuck around only to face six more batters. He left after having recorded just two outs, saddling the Angels with a 4-0 deficit.

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Soon after, the dregs of late September set in, and the Angels set about removing another game from their remaining schedule. And at that, at least, they proved successful.

Angel Notes

Texas shortstop Scott Fletcher is through facing Angel pitching this season, which means he figures to make it to the off-season in one piece. Friday night, the Angels’ Willie Fraser hit Fletcher twice in the left hand with fastballs, helping Fletcher set the Ranger season record for most times being hit by a pitch (12)--and breaking the tip of his left thumb. This marks the second time in a week Fletcher has been sidelined because of a misguided Angel pitch. Fletcher missed two games last week after taking a Mike Cook pitch on his left arm last Saturday and sustaining a bruised elbow. Then, as soon as he returns to the lineup Friday, he is forced out again.


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