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Abbott Makes Most of His Second Chance : Baseball: Two days after losing in Milwaukee, Angel pitcher beats Blue Jays after Finley falls on wet street.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One small misstep by Chuck Finley gave Jim Abbott an opportunity to take a giant step toward redemption.

Finley’s fall on a wet street in Toronto Friday left the Angels’ scheduled starter with a sprained right ankle and Manager Doug Rader and pitching coach Marcel Lachemann with three possible substitutes. Abbott had started Wednesday but threw only 47 pitches in 1 1/3 innings before exiting, little enough work to make him a stronger candidate than Willie Fraser or Scott Bailes and big enough an embarrassment to make him embrace an unexpected second chance.

“Lach came up and said to me, ‘We might have to have you in the pen,’ but I said, ‘I can start if you need me,’ ” said Abbott, who had seen Finley fall but didn’t know the extent of the mishap. “He mulled it over and said, ‘Go ahead.’ ”

Once out there, Abbott never looked back. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, striking out a season-high five and earning a 4-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 49,339 at the SkyDome.

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“You hate to see anybody get hurt, and I’m glad it’s not serious, but for me, I’d have had to think about (Wednesday’s loss) until my next start,” said Abbott, who won for the first time since May 1 and improved to 2-3. “Coming back from such a bad game, maybe this was a blessing in disguise.

“I just tried to go out with a little more specific game plan, to get strike one, and if I didn’t get it, to fight for it on the next pitch. When I walked the lead-off guy, I thought maybe for a little bit, ‘Here we go again,’ but that’s what I have to battle and not let that throw my concentration off and just throw strikes.”

After such a poor performance, he said, “I had nothing to lose.” His teammates were determined that he would not lose, rewarding him with strong support that resulted in the Angels’ third victory in their past nine games.

Donnie Hill doubled and scored during the Angels’ three-run third inning and hit a home run in the fourth off Dave Stieb (5-2). It was Hill’s first home run since Aug. 28, 1988, when he was with the Chicago White Sox. He played flawlessly at second base and was involved in four double plays turned by the Angels.

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“The way Abbie pitched was really a boost,” Hill said. “Abbie threw great. He moved the ball in and out and had a lot of movement on his fastball. It seemed like every time he needed a ground ball, he got it.”

The Blue Jays, who have lost four consecutive games and have fallen 2 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Brewers, scored in the seventh inning on a two-run home run by catcher Pat Borders. Toronto recorded only two fly-ball outs against Abbott and three against sinkerball specialist Mark Eichhorn, who gained as much satisfaction from saving the game for Abbott as he did in defeating his former Toronto teammates.

“He threw great and I was going to do my best to preserve this one,” said Eichhorn, who was credited with his sixth save in seven opportunities. “I was pretty anxious when I went out there. I wanted to keep the ball on the ground because they’ve got so much power. Make one mistake and they’ll take you out of the ballpark.”

A misstep took Finley out of Friday’s game. But Abbott took a huge step forward in regaining lost confidence. “When a starter gets knocked out early, he can brood because he’s got to wait to get back out there, but a reliever might get a chance the next day,” Lachemann said. “In that sense, it did work out good. We’re not tickled about what happened, and we’re glad Chuck’s injury isn’t serious, but it may all work out for the best.”

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Angel Notes

Chuck Finley, who suffered a sprained right ankle when he fell on a rain-slickened step Friday, was told to rest for several days. X-rays showed no serious damage and the swelling subsided by Friday night. The Angels probably will recall a pitcher from triple-A Edmonton if Finley doesn’t recover by his next scheduled start Wednesday, and if Friday’s start takes a toll on Jim Abbott.

“It started raining real hard and we were dodging under the overhang,” said Finley, who, as a left-hander strides onto his right foot during his delivery. “We went down three steps and the last was maybe a half-step. I was going along and the next thing I know, I’m on my back and I see skyscrapers and white teeth in Bert Blyleven’s ugly old face.”

Finley has sprained the ankle twice before in similar circumstances.

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Kent Anderson’s third-inning ground out produced his first RBI of the season. It scored Donnie Hill, who had doubled and taken third on a fielding error by left fielder George Bell. . . . Kirk McCaskill and his wife, Dana, became parents of their first child Thursday when 10-pound, 9-ounce Riley Nicholas was born at 6 p.m. Mother, father and son are doing well. “He came out a kid, not a baby,” said McCaskill, who remained in California for the birth and rejoined the club Friday.

McCaskill is scheduled to pitch today after missing a turn because of stiffness in his right elbow. . . . Dante Bichette wasn’t in the lineup Friday, only the second game he didn’t start. “Dante needs a rest. He’s been out there virtually the whole season,” Manager Doug Rader said. “It’s going to be very difficult juggling people around. Dante has the ability to be an everyday player. Whether he will be in literally every day, play 150, 155 games, remains to be seen.” Only Chili Davis and Wally Joyner have started every game.

Dave Winfield singled in his starting debut and made one unofficial error. “In the hotel I called the bellboy and said, ‘This is Dave Winfield of the New York Yankees,’ and he said, ‘What?’ ” Winfield said. “I said, ‘Oh, the California Angels.’ I have to get used to that.”

Shortstop Dick Schofield (strained hamstring since March 27) jogged at half-speed in California for the first time. . . . Bob McClure (sore left elbow) hasn’t improved since throwing last Sunday and will be examined when the Angels return home.

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