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Manager’s Machinations Work for Angels

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

After watching more than a week of mind-numbing, asleep-at-the-wheel baseball, Angel Manager Cookie Rojas took it upon himself Sunday to inject a little life into the doldrums of Anaheim.

Sure, it would’ve been easy to stay with starting pitcher Chuck Finley, who had four-hit the Texas Rangers through six strong innings. And, sure, it would’ve been simple to keep Jack Howell in the lineup after he had doubled, hit a homer and driven in 3 runs in his first 3 at-bats.

But why settle for a ho-hum 4-1 lead when chills and thrills and a 6-5, come-from-behind Angel victory can be yours?

Before Wally Joyner’s bases-loaded dunker to left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth could score Darrell Miller and Thad Bosley with the tying and winning runs, Rojas had spun a sometimes inexplicable but always engrossing web of strategy and intrigue that all but unraveled in the top of the ninth.

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First, he pulled Finley from a four-hit, seven-strikeout, one-run effort after he walked Mike Stanley to open the seventh--handing the ball to Greg Minton.

Minton would leave the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of ninth.

Then, in the eighth inning, he used George Hendrick to pinch-hit for Howell, who had doubled in a run in the second inning and delivered a two-run home run in the sixth.

Hendrick grounded into an inning-ending double play.

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Then, in the ninth, he replaced Minton with Bryan Harvey, whose first assignment was to pitch to pinch-hitter Pete O’Brien.

O’Brien turned a 4-1 Ranger deficit into a 5-4 lead with the second grand slam of his career.

This isn’t the recommended way to win baseball games, but none of 23,936 in the Anaheim Stadium stands could say it wasn’t exciting.

On to the bottom of ninth--or Cookie’s Revenge--where Rojas, having managed the Angels into this mess, promptly managed them out of it.

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With Miller on first base and one out, Rojas had Johnny Ray bat for Dick Schofield.

Ray singled to left and was lifted for pinch-runner Bosley.

Texas switched pitchers, replacing left-handed Mitch Williams with right-handed Dwayne Henry, and Rojas switched hitters--batting Bob Boone for Devon White.

In addition, Rojas sent both Miller and Bosley running on Henry’s full-count pitch to Boone. This forced Ranger third baseman Steve Buechele to retreat to the bag.

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Boone pinged a bouncer into the hole just vacated by Buechele for an infield single, and the Angels had the bases loaded.

After a strikeout by Tony Armas, the bases remained loaded for Joyner, who immediately fell behind in the count, 0 and 2.

But on Henry’s third pitch, Joyner lunged and popped the ball into the shallow left field. Shortstop Curtis Wilkerson couldn’t flag it down. Neither could left fielder Barbaro Garbey.

The ball fell in and two runs scored.

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On an afternoon when Minton and Harvey couldn’t save a victory for Finley, Joyner certainly saved the day for Rojas.

“What a hell of a way to come back,” said Rojas as he slumped into a chair in his office. “I almost had a heart attack in the ninth inning.”

Although he preferred to discuss his idea to send Miller and Bosley running on Henry’s 3-and-2 pitch, Rojas defended each and every decision along the way.

--On pulling Finley: “Finley pitched very well for six innings, but when he walked the first guy in the seventh, I saw he wasn’t throwing the same way. So I brought in Minton and Minton did his job.”

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--On replacing Minton with Harvey: “I knew (the Rangers) were going to go with O’Brien (as a pinch-hitter). I still had to go with Harvey. He’s my No. 1.”

--On batting Hendrick for Howell: “It was a tough lefty-lefty situation. Williams was pitching and although he’s wild as hell, he’s pretty damn tough on left-handers. I was trying to get an extra run with Hendrick. If his ball goes through and we get another run, the grand slam means nothing.”

No sense trying to explain it. Sometimes, Cookie Ball simply transcends words.


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