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Victory Lets Abbott Erase Bitter Memory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The clubhouse TV set showed Jim Abbott throwing perfect touchdown passes, Jim Abbott pitching the U.S. Olympic team to gold-medal glory, Jim Abbott coolly performing wondrous athletic feats. By contrast, the Abbott who sat in the Angels’ clubhouse Sunday watching his filmed image was sweaty and weary, evidence of his labors in the hot Texas night.

Nothing came easily for the 22-year-old left-hander, but at least his six-inning effort in the Angels’ 7-4 victory over the Rangers Sunday was appreciated by his manager.

“I thought it was heroic,” Manager Doug Rader said of Abbott’s two-run, six-strikeout performance. “He was really tired in the sixth, but he got us in an area where we could use Ike (Mark Eichhorn) and Harv (Bryan Harvey). He did a real nice job. . . . He was a little wobbly, but he got us through the sixth, and that was important to us.”

Equally important was Abbott’s ability to overcome the disappointment he felt last Monday, when he pitched nine shutout innings against Cleveland only to lose in the 10th. That defeat lingered until Abbott (3-4) could consign it to the heap of learning experiences.

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“That last game was kind of hard to swallow,” he said. “It took me a couple of days. I kept going over and over it. I finally realized that if you pitch like that and give your team a chance to win, you have to take some solace in that and try to do it again next time.”

He didn’t pitch as precisely Sunday, but he had more offensive support this time. The Angels scored four runs in the first inning against knuckleballer Charlie Hough (5-4) with two outs, an outburst highlighted by Dante Bichette’s bases-clearing bloop double to short right. A two-run home run in the seventh by Chili Davis and a 406-foot home run to center by Bichette in the eighth allowed Abbott to challenge the Rangers’ free-swinging hitters.

“Abbott was cutting that fastball in and off the plate and we couldn’t lay off it,” Ranger Manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s a good pitcher with pretty good stuff. . . . We battled back. We had some opportunities but didn’t get enough on the board.”

Texas scored in the first on two singles and a grounder and in the fifth on a walk, a force play, a hit batter and a single by Julio Franco, but the Angels maintained a safe distance most of the game. Eichhorn was hit hard in the seventh as the Rangers cut the Angels’ lead to 6-4, but Bichette’s home run off reliever Brad Arnsberg clinched the Angels’ 12th victory in their last 16 games and brought them within a game of .500 (25-26) for the fourth time in the last week. They also trimmed a game off the A’s lead, reducing it to nine games.

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“This was a good team win,” said Abbott, who had won only one of his previous six decisions. “Chili hit a two-out home run and Dante’s home run puts us back up three runs. I felt like (Saturday) night’s loss could have hurt us because we knew Oakland had lost and we scored some runs early and we had our ace (Chuck Finley) on the mound, but things kind of got away from us. Tonight, by the team having such a good game against Charlie Hough, who’s having a solid year, that puts us back in a positive trend.”

Bichette’s career-high four RBIs was another positive sign, for several reasons. He feared he had given Rader ample reason to bench him after striking out four times Friday against Bobby Witt and by going one for four Saturday. His home run came after Arnsberg had tried to move him off the plate with a fastball up and in. “That was a major-league home run,” teammate Dave Winfield said.

Proud as Bichette was of his perseverance, he was even more pleased with the Angels’ persistence and progress over the last month. “We’re starting to play better and Oakland is starting to slip a little bit,” he said. “The quicker we get back in it, the better. When we win, we don’t have to worry what Oakland does. If we keep winning, we’re right there.”

Angel Notes

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Results of tests on infielder Donnie Hill’s right shoulder showed only a slightly strained muscle, and he is scheduled to rest for two days before beginning two or three days’ rehabilitation. Manager Doug Rader said the club will remain short an infielder until Hill can return rather than recalling anyone from triple-A Edmonton.

Rader said shortstop Dick Schofield, playing with Edmonton on rehabilitation, is a few days away from being ready and could be in the lineup when the Angels return to Anaheim Stadium this weekend. Jack Howell (sprained left knee) is eligible to be activated this week and could rejoin the lineup Friday. Mark McLemore, on rehabilitation with Edmonton, is still having problems with his sprained right wrist and is not expected back soon.

Chuck Finley, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings Saturday, told Rader he would be available in the bullpen Sunday if needed. Rader laughed. . . . Saturday’s game was the first in which Chili Davis did not appear. Only first baseman Wally Joyner has played in all 50 games.

Shortstop Gary DiSarcina got his first hit in 26 at-bats, a ground-single to center Sunday. That improved his major league statistics to two for 37 (.054). Rader said earlier in the week that DiSarcina’s woes at the plate stem from an old hamstring injury. “After that, he got into some real bad habits,” Rader said. “It takes a lot of work to get out of bad habits. For every bad swing you take, it takes 100 good swings to correct them.”

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The Angels have no first-round pick in this week’s amateur free agent draft, having lost it to Montreal for signing Mark Langston. The pick is 24th overall.


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