The Angel pitching staff has been taking a beating lately. Until Monday night, it wasn't a matter of bruised earned-run averages. They were winning, yet experiencing the agony of the feet, shins and ankles.
Starter Chuck Finley became the third Angel pitcher in four days to be hit with a batted ball, but the Blue Jays did more damage to Angel pitches than Angel pitchers en route to an 8-1 victory in front of 24,430 at Anaheim Stadium.
Toronto scored four runs off Finley, whose departure was hastened by a sharp grounder off the bat of Tony Fernandez that struck him on the inside of the right ankle. Fernandez, the first batter of the sixth inning, eventually scored to break a 1-1 tie.
Before Finley hobbled off, Kelly Gruber and George Bell also had crossed the plate and then the Blue Jays began to batter the Angel bullpen.
Finley, who joins Bryan Harvey (who took a shot off his right foot Friday) and Greg Minton (who was struck in the right shin by a line drive Saturday) on the Angel hit list, was examined by team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum. Finley suffered a contusion and is expected to make his next start, Yocum said.
Manager Doug Rader also had an early exit, ejected in the eighth by home plate umpire Al Clark. With two on in the eighth, Clark called out Devon White on strikes and Rader rushed from the dugout to complain. He quickly earned his first ejection as an Angel manager.
The Angels went without a fight. Wally Joyner grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Finley (7-6) is 0-4 this month but his performance hardly qualifies as a classic June swoon. White's fourth-inning solo homer was the first run the Angels have scored in the last 27 innings with Finley on the mound.
Finley, who had pitched into the seventh inning or later in 11 of his first 13 starts, didn't last that long Monday. But who knows how things would have turned out had he been able to avoid Fernandez' hard bouncer.
The Blue Jays got a run in the third inning, but they didn't exactly pound the ball. Kevin Batiste led off with a bunt. Finley fielded the ball cleanly but then he spun and fired wildly to first and Batiste cruised into second. Nelson Liriano sacrificed and Junior Felix lined out to center to scored Batiste and give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
Toronto starter Dave Stieb (7-3) did not allow a hit in the first three innings, but the Angels had their first hit--and first run--in the fourth. Whit hit his first pitch of the inning 395 feet over the in the right-center field fence to tie the score, 1-1.
The Blue Jays knocked Finley out--almost literally--in the sixth. Fernandez hit the shot off Finley's ankle and then White misjudged Kelly Gruber's line drive to left-center. White appeared to take a bad angle in his attempt to cut off the ball and it skipped past him and bounded to the wall. Fernandez scored and Gruber jogged into second.
George Bell followed with a double down the left-field line to score Gruber and one out later, Manny Lee singled to center to score Bell. That was it for Finley, who gave way to Dan Petry.
Petry didn't have much luck, either, although it could be said he managed to keep from getting hit with the ball. He did, however, give up three consecutive hits without getting an out in the seventh. And by the time Willie Fraser was summoned, Toronto led, 6-1.
Nelson Liriano led off with a single to left and then Felix unloaded a prodigious shot into the second deck in right-center. Fernandez singled to center and then Fraser came on, but he didn't exactly restore order.
Fernandez took second on a passed ball and scored on Bell's single off the glove of shortstop Dick Schofield. Pat Borders singled to right and Manny Lee one-hopped a shot into the right-field seats for a ground-rule double that scored Bell to make it 8-1.
Toronto sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning and left the bases loaded.
All in all, not a great night for the Angels. A few pitchers might have had red faces.
But at least only one guy ended up black and blue.
Tony Armas, who has been on the disabled list since May 16 with a strained left hamstring, was reinstated Monday and outfielder Dante Bichette was optioned to triple-A affiliate Edmonton. Bichette, whose surprising numbers this spring (.388 with four homers and 14 RBIs) convinced Manager Doug Rader to include him on the 24-man, opening-day roster, had only one hit in his last 16 at-bats and his average had slipped to .195. Bichette said he had been anticipating the move for "two or three weeks," but that didn't seem to lessen the blow. "I guess it's for the best," he said, dabbing his eyes with a towel. "I've got to get some at-bats. I opened some eyes in spring training, but I think I've got to get a chance to play every day." Bichette began the season with 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats, but has struggled lately with his role as pinch-hitter and spot starter. "I'm not swinging well at all," he said. "I'm not as aggressive. I guess I've been trying to make the starting lineup with every swing."
Rader said that a number of factors--not the least of which is Claudell Washington's success against left-handed pitching--have diminished Bichette's playing time. "We originally thought that if we could get Dante 200 to 250 at-bats, being up here would be a bigger plus than having him play every day in triple-A," Rader said. "But I don't see how in the world we can get him that many in this situation. He's way out of sync at the plate and the only thing you can forecast is more of the same. And that's counter productive. Now, if we have to press him into service because of an injury, he'll be better prepared." . . . Armas said he feels good but doesn't want to play first base anymore because "I stretch or pull a muscle on every play." He needn't worry. "Tony's reflexes aren't suited to first base," Rader said. "We're going to keep him out in the patch (outfield) from now on."
Mike Witt, the one-time ace of the Angel starting rotation, picked up his first victory in six starts Sunday and Rader said he noticed four differences--three tangible and one in attitude. "First, he kept the ball down," Rader said. "Second, he kept the ball in the ballpark. No. 3, his breaking ball has been much better in his last two outings. And the way he presented himself on the mound was improved. You have a certain amount of body language when you're performing and his was much more positive."