He's Got Their Number: Oakland's Hassey Hits the Angels Hard : Baseball: Athletics' catcher goes two for five, including a solo home run.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bad news for Angel pitchers was that Bob Welch was on the mound for the Oakland Athletics. It meant Ron Hassey, Welch's personal catcher, was going to play.

Now that might not strike fear in the heart of most pitchers. Hassey, after all, was hitting only .202 at the start of Thursday night's game at Anaheim Stadium.

Against Angel pitchers, however, those type of numbers don't seem to apply. This season and throughout his career, Hassey has hit the Angels and hit them hard.

Thursday night was no exception. Hassey had two hits in five at-bats, including a solo home run, in the Athletics' 7-5 victory.

Hassey, 37, is hitting .474 against the Angels this season and has a career average of .307 against them. His fifth-inning home run was the second against them this season and the ninth of his career.

"I don't know why I hit them so well," said Hassey, an 11-year veteran. "It's just one of those things. Heck, if I knew why, I'd do it against every team."

The one thing Hassey did know was that he would be in the starting lineup because it was Welch's turn to pitch. The two have been inseparable for almost two seasons.

In 53 of Welch's last 55 starts, Hassey has been his catcher. It was a role thrust upon him by the Athletic coaching staff in 1988.

That was Welch's first year in the American League and because Terry Steinbach, the A's regular catcher, was a rookie, pitching coach Dave Duncan believed it would be better if the veteran, Hassey, caught Welch.

"Terry didn't know the personnel in the league at that time, so we felt Ron's experience would help Bob," Duncan said. "It's worked out fine, so we've stayed with it."

Hassey also has helped Welch stay under control at times. Thursday, he visited the mound twice in the early innings when Welch was in trouble and settled down the pitcher.

The Angels had two runners on in the first inning, but Welch got out of it by striking out Lee Stevens. Welch also gave up two hits in the third, but the Angels failed to score.

Welch went 5 1/3 innings for his 17th victory, tops in the American League. Welch is 33-11 during the two seasons with Hassey as his catcher.

Hassey's presence in the lineup was an offensive benefit as well. In the fifth, he homered into the right-field seats to give the Athletics a 7-0 lead. He also singled in the seventh.

"Some players just hit certain teams," Duncan said. "I don't know why Ron hits the Angels. I'm just glad he does."

Hassey has seen a little more action lately than his one-every-five-games assignment.

Steinbach missed 24 games in July because of a pulled muscle. So Hassey and Jamie Quirk shared time at catcher. Hassey might have played more, but his knees wouldn't allow it. Eleven-plus years behind the plate have taken a toll.

Still, Hassey has been effective at the plate. He has 11 hits in his past 35 at-bats with two home runs and eight runs batted in.

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