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Angels Lose Grip Against A’s : Mistakes Leave Them Defenseless in a 9-5 Loss

Times Staff Writer

The Angels arrived here with something to prove and made their point in the first two games, defeating the defending American League champion Athletics twice and opening a two-game lead in the standings.

But any visions of Angel invincibility disappeared Wednesday at Oakland Coliseum with a series of miscues as the A’s beat the Angels, 9-5, before 44,588.

It wasn’t so much that the Angels lost. It was the way they lost. There were players arguing with umpires while A’s took extra bases. There was poor judgment, poor execution. It was not a pretty sight.

“I can only think of two games when we haven’t been efficient in the field,” Manager Doug Rader said. “The first game of the doubleheader in Toronto (when the Angels made four errors) and today.”

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Despite the blundering, the Angels were in a position to win. And had it not been for a fine over-the-shoulder catch by Dave Henderson of a drive by Brian Downing with the bases loaded in the seventh, they might have come away with a sweep.

Still, the Angels, who were swept in a three-game series here earlier this year, believe they’ve earned some respect this week.

“Since spring training to this point, nobody thought the California Angels were for real,” right fielder Claudell Washington said. “They didn’t think we could compete. They thought we’d come up here and get swept.

“If we had been a little better defensively and played heads up, we would have won this game, too. But we’re not going to blame anyone. We’ll just pick up the pieces and keep on going because we believe in ourselves and that’s what counts most.”

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It would have been hard to decide on one person to blame anyway. The list of candidates was that long.

It all unraveled in the fourth inning, after the Angels had taken a 3-1 lead.

Dave Parker led off with a bloop single to left that might have been caught, but shortstop Dick Schofield and left fielder Chili Davis both hesitated momentarily as the ball fell between them. Mark McGwire followed with a double to left-center and then Dave Henderson hit a grounder to short that handcuffed Schofield, bouncing under his glove as he tried to snatch it out of the air. Both Parker and McGwire scored, tying the score, 3-3.

One out later, Ron Hassey singled to right, sending Henderson to third. Then Tony Phillips hit a sharp grounder to second that looked to be a sure double-play ball, but Johnny Ray chose to throw home. Henderson slid under catcher Bill Schroeder’s tag and while Schroeder argued with home plate umpire Al Clark, Hassey sprinted to third. Mike Gallego flied to right to score Hassey and the A’s were ahead, 5-3.

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“It was a reaction play,” Ray said. “My first reaction was to look at home. I saw the runner break and that’s where I went. I never second-guess myself.”

Schroeder said he wasn’t expecting the ball, but he also thought he made the tag before Henderson slid across the plate. On a day of mistakes, Schroeder was the only Angel to receive an official error, although all he did was hold the ball while Hassey took third.

“If I had it to do over again, I’d have called time out first,” he said, managing a smile. “But by the time you think to call time out, all the fervor is gone.”

Oakland starter Mike Moore, who gave up six hits in the first three innings, seemed to be buoyed by the Oakland outburst and retired 11 in a row between the third and seventh innings, six on strikeouts. But when he walked Schofield with one out in the seventh, Manager Tony La Russa decided to bring in Rick Honeycutt.

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The Angels scored one run on Devon White’s single, but then Henderson saved a bunch more when he stabbed Downing’s drive a step in front of the warning track in center.

The Angels tied the score, 5-5, in the eighth on a single, a sacrifice and a run-scoring single by Schofield, but the A’s blew the game open in the bottom of the inning.

Starter Mike Witt, whose record dropped to 7-8, gave up singles to McGwire and Dave Henderson and Rader summoned Rich Monteleone. Monteleone struck out Jose Canseco, but Hassey singled in the go-ahead run and another scored on a fielder’s choice when Jack Howell decided to try for a double play instead of getting a sure out at the plate. Rickey Henderson drove in another with a single off Howell’s chest, and Lansford made it 9-5 with a run-scoring single to center.

“There have been a few times this season where everything was going right and we put together a good streak,” La Russa said. “But more often, we seem to have to win a game to stay alive. This was definitely a big game for us.”

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And it was an important series for the Angels, who, if nothing else, have earned the respect of the A’s.

“Respect isn’t what we’re looking for,” Davis said. “They can keep their respect. We want a division championship.”

Angel Notes

The Angels lead the major leagues in home runs (93), which was news to shortstop Dick Schofield, who hit No. 93 Tuesday night. “I didn’t realize we were leading until I read it in the paper last week,” he said. “We spread out our homers pretty good.” No Angel is in the top 10 in the league homers, which is a big plus, according to catcher Lance Parrish. “There’s not really one spot in the order they can attack,” he said. “Anyone can hit it out, all the way through the lineup.” Four Angels--Jack Howell (14), Chili Davis (13), Parrish (13) and Claudell Washington (10)--are in double figures in homers and Brian Downing and Devon White have nine apiece. . . . Is a homer-oriented nickname, a la Oakland’s Bash Brothers, forthcoming for the Angels? “We ain’t got no names,” Davis said. “We’re just the Angels.”

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Washington, who had an outsider’s view of the Angels in recent years, thinks his new team has come a long way. “If we don’t win another game this season, we’ve done a helluva job,” he said.

Marcos Armas, younger brother of Angel outfielder Tony Armas, is hitting .272 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 20 games for the A’s Southern Oregon rookie league team.

* BEYOND THE CALL

Dave Henderson adds an extra touch to help Athletics beat Angels. Elliott Teaford’s story, Page 6.

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