This isn’t a game of one-upmanship that the Angels’ starting pitchers are playing, Chuck Finley was quick to point out.
It just seems that way.
“I can see the same thing happening as last year, when the pitchers got on a roll and just kept getting better and better,” Finley said. “It’s not like a jealousy type of deal. I don’t know how to explain it except that it makes you tougher. It knocks you up a couple of notches and brings out the competitiveness in you.”
Finley ended the first week of the season by going eight innings--the longest stint for an Angel pitcher so far--and allowing only three hits in a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins Sunday at Anaheim Stadium.
After winning for the fourth time in five games, the Angels welcomed a day off today before the arrival of the Oakland A’s for a two-game series.
“It’s good to get off to a good start regardless of who we play next,” said Chili Davis, whose two-run single off Kevin Tapani (1-1) broke a 1-1 tie in the third. “I’m not one of those people who think Oakland’s invincible. We’re going to have to play them to beat them, and I think we can beat them. They were world champions last year and they were picked to win again. I have no qualms about that. Whoever makes the least mistakes Tuesday and Wednesday will win. . . .
“They’ve started fast, too. That’s fine. They’re a good ballclub. They’re not going to lay down for anyone. This team isn’t going to lay down, either. I think we’ve got a better chance this year of beating Oakland. We’re more well-rounded and our pitching staff is stronger with Mark Langston and Kirk McCaskill (injury-free) and our pen is stronger. Last year, we had some doubts. This year, I think we can beat Oakland. It’s a matter of us playing our ballgame and avoiding mistakes.”
Mistakes cost the Twins Sunday.
Minnesota pushed across a run in the second inning on a double by Gene Larkin, a passed ball and a groundout by Carmen Castillo. The Angels matched that in the bottom of the inning. With two out, Dante Bichette walked, went to second when Tapani hit John Orton and scored on Rick Schu’s single to left.
Max Venable led off the third for the Angels with a double and advanced to third base when Tapani slipped on the grass between the mound and the third-base line while trying to field Mark McLemore’s sacrifice bunt.
Wally Joyner’s groundout sent McLemore to second, and Davis’ single to right off a high forkball scored both Venable and McLemore.
Davis scored the final Angel run when Gold Glove outfielder Kirby Puckett dropped Bichette’s fly ball to center.
“I’ve never made this many errors in a week before,” said Puckett, who committed two errors in this four-game series for a total of three this season, one short of the total he committed all last season. “It’s just bad luck, I guess.”
The Angels were good enough not to have to rely on luck.
“Chuck pitched a great ballgame,” Manager Doug Rader said. “He doesn’t have the arm strength (he had last season) but within the next couple of starts, you’ll start seeing him have the same strength.
“You measure arm strength by velocity and being able to get away with certain pitches in the strike zone, rather than having to be real fine. He ended at 86-87 (m.p.h.) and that’s OK. He’s 89-90 on most days, so he’s a little bit under what he’s going to be.”
Going the extra inning to get his--and the American League’s--first complete game of the season simply wasn’t realistic for Finley, who pitched 6 1/3 innings in his first start, a 7-0 victory over Seattle last Tuesday.
“I felt fortunate to be where I was,” said Finley, who was as proud of his career-high nine complete games last season as of his 16 victories. “My arm started to feel a little tender. If they’d told me I could stay in, I probably would have told them no.
“One complete game is not going to make or break me. As long as I’m throwing well and putting myself in position to pitch complete games, that’s fine. There’s no need to rush at this point.”
And in the friendly game being played by the Angels’ pitchers, Finley is ahead in two categories. Not only does he have two victories, he has the distinction of being called “Mr. Finley” by Twins Manager Tom Kelly, as in a respectful “Mr. Finley was a little too much for us today.”
Bryan Harvey struck out the last two men he faced in the ninth inning to earn his first save of the season. The Angels’ relievers are 1-1 with four saves in five opportunities and an ERA of 1.59. . . . Rick Schu’s RBI was his first as an Angel. . . . Dante Bichette’s hitting streak ended at five games. However, with two home runs, he has equaled the number he hit last year in 68 at-bats.
The Angels (5-2) were 3-4 after seven games last season. . . . Max Venable’s assist in the third inning, when he doubled Shane Mack off first, was the seventh for the Angels’ outfielders. Bichette has five and Devon White has one.
Manager Doug Rader said today would absolutely be a day off. No extra batting practice, no workouts. “I don’t believe in off-day workouts,” he said. “You need to get away from it emotionally.”
Kirk McCaskill, who spent a year in the Winnipeg Jets’ minor-league system, will root for the Kings should the Jets and Kings meet in the next round of the NHL playoffs. “They match up well with Winnipeg, but I think (the Kings’ opponent is) going to be Edmonton, anyway,” said McCaskill, whose father, Ted, played for the Los Angeles Sharks of the old World Hockey Assn.
Farm report: Karl Allaire, shortstop for the Edmonton Trappers, the Angels’ triple-A affiliate, committed five errors in a game against the Las Vegas Stars at Las Vegas Sunday. The five errors ties the Pacific Coast League record. Allaire had four errors in the first three innings, then handled six chances flawlessly before opening the ninth with his fifth error. Only one of Allaire’s errors led to a Las Vegas run, and Edmonton won the game, 5-2.