Mark Langston's mastery of the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night came far too late to affect the American League West division race, but the rediscovery of his poise and control has come in time for him to grab a few shreds of hope from an otherwise dreadful season.
"It's just been a real flustrating year. It hasn't gone too well from my standpoint, and the one thing I want to do is finish strong and come out next year and be more aggressive," Langston said after he and the Angels overpowered the Twins, 9-0, before a crowd of 21,908. It was only his third victory in 15 starts this season at Anaheim Stadium.
"I just want to finish consistent and let the team behind me know I can do the job and get a little confidence in myself. I'll be able to block this season out as quick as possible and work very hard over the winter and be ready next year."
Langston (9-16) allowed four hits, struck out six and walked one in earning the fourth victory in his last five decisions and his first shutout since Sept. 17, 1989, when he was with the Montreal Expos and defeated the New York Mets, 1-0. The shutout, achieved on 102 pitches in 2 hours 19 minutes, was also his first in the league since April 8, 1989, when he was with Seattle and beat the Angels, 7-0.
"That was perfect. Just great," Manager Doug Rader said. "He changed speeds well and had a nice ratio of balls to strikes. . . . I think he's finally starting to feel better about everything, and that's great. He's persevered and worked his tail end off, and I'm very happy for him."
Rader had much to be happy about. The Angels scored twice in the first inning off starter Kevin Tapani (11-7), who left after three innings to protect a strained rib-cage muscle that had prevented him from pitching since Aug. 13. They scored again in the fourth on Jack Howell's run-scoring single off Roy Smith. They pulled away in the fifth on Johnny Ray's double-play grounder and Dave Winfield's two-run home run to center, the 373rd home run of his career, and made it a romp in the ninth when Kirby Puckett misplayed Luis Polonia's single for two runs.
Chili Davis ended a one-for-27 slump with three hits and an RBI, but in the night's lone negative note, he aggravated the sore back that sidelined him for five games last week and his status is day to day.
"This is for all the times we didn't score for (Langston). Now we're even," Winfield joked. "We're just playing loose, getting hits and playing good ball. Home cooking, I guess."
Winfield, who was three for four Monday and two for four Tuesday, credited his resurgence to adjustments he has made at the urging of hitting instructor Deron Johnson. He also credited, as he called it, "that announcement July 30," referring to Commissioner Fay Vincent's sanctions against former New York Yankee general partner George Steinbrenner. Before that announcement, Winfield was hitting .231 with 37 RBIs. In 34 games since then, he's hitting .320 (40 for 125) for an overall average of .259, with 22 RBIs.
"Maybe I got an emotional boost at that point," Winfield said, smiling.
Langston is getting an emotional boost from his strong finish, although he won't permit himself to think about how different the season might have been for him and the Angels if he had pitched this well.
"It happened and I'm disappointed with the way it's turned out, but I just look forward. I can't do anything about what happened in the past," he said. "The flustrating part is we know we're such a better team than the way we've played."
A decision on Manager Doug Rader, whose contract expires after this season, is unlikely before Friday. General Manager Mike Port had said he would confer with Rader this week to discuss plans for next season, but Port is attending owners' meetings in Pittsburgh and won't return until late Thursday. No meeting between the two has been set, and Rader declined comment.
Dante Bichette was miffed to see his name omitted from the groups of hitters for batting practice Tuesday, although he was told it was inadvertent. "They don't even know I'm here," he said. . . . Kirk McCaskill plans to complete the season rather than move up his elbow surgery, which is scheduled for the off-season. "It's important for me to finish because I've been hurt two of the last three years and it wouldn't be very good for my career to make it three out of four," said McCaskill, who will have bone spurs removed from his right elbow. "Plus, I'm still able to pitch. (Continuing) isn't threatening my career."
Donnie Hill was reinstated off the disabled list although his sprained left wrist is too sore for him to hit. He was available as a defensive replacement. . . . Max Venable sprained his right ankle in a fall down stairs at home Tuesday and was unavailable. . . . Devon White has had more than 100 strikeouts for the third time in four seasons.
The Angels' Quad Cities farm club won the Class-A Midwest League title, but Boise lost in the Class-A Northwest League finals to Spokane, which is owned by the family of Angel broadcaster Ken Brett. The Angels' triple-A Edmonton club has lost the first two games of the best-of-five Pacific Coast League championship series with the Dodgers' Albuquerque club. . . . Larry Casian, who attended Lakewood High School and Cal State Fullerton, will make his first major league start tonight for Minnesota.