Angels' McCaskill Defeats Yankees, 4-2, Cuts Era to 2.96

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While the public fixes its gaze on the pitcher who might win 20 games and the pitcher who might lose 20, Kirk McCaskill presses on.

Chuck Finley has won 15 games, and Mark Langston has lost 15.

McCaskill is merely 8-8 after the Angels' 4-2 victory Monday over New York in front of 28,387 at Anaheim Stadium.

But his ordinary record obscures an extraordinary earned-run average.

McCaskill's 2.96 ERA is the fourth best in the American League, surpassed only by those of Roger Clemens, Finley, and Dave Stewart, all likely 20-game winners.

McCaskill, who gave up one run on six hits in seven innings Friday, has fashioned this ERA despite pitching with bone spurs in his right elbow. He expects to have surgery the day after the season ends, or even the day after his final start, if the team approves. His victory Monday was his first career win over the Yankees.

His name disappears and reappears in the ERA standings because the number of innings he has pitched barely qualify him. But with his start each week, he usually pulls back into contention.

Langston's tendency to find himself in 2-1 games and a sometime loser because of lack of support has been much documented.

McCaskill has seen his share too. In Monday's game, he led, 2-1, from the third inning until the Angels scored two runs in the seventh.

Three times that he has pitched, the Angels have played 2-1 games, winning one.

In his eight losses, the Angels have scored five runs at the time of his departure.

McCaskill defended himself Monday, getting out of a spot in the seventh when the Yankees put runners on first and third with none out.

He got Bob Geren to chase a low, outside pitch, hitting it to third base where Jesse Barfield was caught in a rundown. He got the second out by getting Matt Nokes to pop to short, and the third by striking out Roberto Kelly.

The Angels, who were guaranteed not to fall into last place in the American League West only by virtue of Minnesota's day off, had a 2-0 lead after two innings.

Yankee starter Chuck Cary, who would last only two innings before being removed with back spasms, walked the first batter he faced, Brian Downing.

Downing went to third on Donnie Hill's single, and scored on Lance Parrish's two-out single. Lee Stevens grounded to second, stranding two runners.

Cary, the only Yankee pitcher to win consecutive starts this season, had not won a game since June 19, spanning nine starts. He didn't give himself an opportunity to win this one.

The Angels put runners on first and third in the second inning on Dick Schofield's walk and Downing's single.

Cary let Schofield come home when he threw a wild pitch, way high, enabling Schofield to slide in safe ahead of catcher Bob Geren's throw from the backstop to Cary, who had moved in to cover the plate.

Downing took second on the play, but Hill flied out to end the inning. Cary was through, removed as a precautionary measure because of the muscle spasms in his back, according to a report from the clubhouse.

The Yankees got a run back in the third inning, trimming the lead to 2-1 on two singles and a groundout. Oscar Azocar's two-out single to center drove in Alvaro Espinoza, who had singled and taken second on a groundout.

The Angels wasted a fine opportunity to break the unsteady grip of their 2-1 lead, loading the bases with one out in the fifth inning on singles by Dave Winfield and Lance Parrish and Lee Stevens' walk.

They walked away empty-handed after Devon White struck out and Kent Anderson grounded to short.

White, sent to triple-A Edmonton last month to work on his hitting and discipline at the plate, seemed much improved when he returned, going eight for his 27 in his first six games back. But in the past seven games before Monday, he had gone five for 30, including 11 consecutive hitless at-bats entering Monday's game.

The Angels led, 4-1, after eight innings, before Jesse Barfield's solo homer, his 16th, to left off Bryan Harvey cut it to 4-2.

The homer was only the second this season allowed by Harvey, who had not allowed one in 40 innings covering 30 appearances.

Harvey pitched the eighth and ninth for his 14th save. Angel Notes Mark Langston says one of the most difficult things about his 15 losses this season is the wait for the next start and the possibility it brings for putting the last behind him. There will be no long wait this time. Langston, who gave up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings Sunday, will start Wednesday on two days' rest. He will replace Bert Blyleven, who will skip a start after receiving a cortisone shot for his strained right shoulder Sunday.

"I'll take the ball any time they want to give it to me," Langston said. "I didn't do that much work (Sunday). I don't think that will have any effect." Langston (5-15) threw only 64 pitches Sunday, his 10th loss in his past 11 decisions.

Blyleven, whose next start will be Saturday, said the chance for him to skip a start will be beneficial.

Langston said he believes he has corrected several mechanical flaws in his complicated delivery, and that he "felt sound (Sunday) for the first time in a long time" despite his poor performance. Langston said he was consoled by pitchers Blyleven, Kirk McCaskill and Jim Abbott.

"They really picked me up," he said, also including Manager Doug Rader. "I was down. . . . The more you talk about it, the easier it is to get rid of it."

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