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Joyner’s Slam Is Grand in Angels’ 12-2 Victory

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wally Joyner doesn’t think of himself as a home run hitter, his 34 in 1987 aside.

And the Angel first baseman wasn’t thinking of a homer when he came up in the seventh inning Friday with two out and the bases loaded and a 2-0 Angel lead.

When Joyner laced a slider from Indian right-hander Eric King toward the newly distant right-field fence, he thought the ball would be caught by Turner Ward, who had made an outstanding play on Dave Winfield’s drive to the warning track an inning earlier.

“I think that what my job is, more than anything, is to get a base hit,” Joyner said. “I knew I hit it good, but I thought as I was running to first base, ‘Good hit at the wrong time.’ ”

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But Joyner’s blast sailed over the 400-foot fence for his second homer in three games and third career grand slam, sparking the Angels to a 12-2 romp over the Indians at Cleveland Stadium.

“This is a very good way to start this trip,” said Joyner, who added a fifth RBI in the six-run ninth inning and raised his batting average to .337. “We’re trying to work on some things and get momentum going, and this is a good start.”

The Angels manufactured runs in the second and sixth innings off King (3-3) to support an out-standing effort by Mark Langston. He discovered early that his breaking ball wasn’t working well, but he compensated by being aggressive with his fastball, knowing the vast outfield gave him ample margin for error.

Langston (3-1) recorded only two strikeouts but allowed only one hit through the first five innings, a two-out double by Albert Belle that skidded down the left-field line.

“I felt in control from the start,” said Langston, who has won two games this month after winning only one last May. “I felt like I had a real good fastball, and I was keeping it down and staying ahead of hitters. I didn’t have a real good slider or good breaking ball, which is how I get a lot of my strikeouts.”

Langston was even more secure after Joyner’s homer.

“That was a big hit right there,” Langston said. “It was a tight ballgame and Eric was pitching well. In a tight game, mentally you know you can’t afford to walk a guy or make mistakes. With some runs, you know you just have to throw strikes.”

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Joyner was on first when Ward made a diving, tumbling catch on Winfield’s drive, which dashed the Angels’ hopes for a big inning. Luis Polonia, who had reached on an infield hit and raced to third on Joyner’s single, tagged up and scored, but that was their only run in the inning.

The Angels eased Langston’s burden in the seventh inning. Donnie Hill drew a one-out walk, and after Junior Felix took a third strike, Dick Schofield beat out a grounder to the left side on a close play at first. Polonia walked, and with left-hander Jesse Orosco warming up in the Indians’ bullpen, Joyner prepared himself to wait through a pitching change.

But Indian Manager John McNamara, believing King strong enough to get out of the inning, left him in the game. King got ahead in the count on a first-pitch slider that broke up and in, but then Joyner prevailed. “After seeing the first one, maybe I geared up a little more,” he said.

Angel Manager Doug Rader was delighted.

“I was glad to see it disappear, especially after the play Ward had made on Winfield,” Rader said. “It wasn’t a sure thing.”

Joyner was sure the Angels could have won anyway.

“It was a very, very strong outing for Mark Langston,” Joyner said. “This is as good as I’ve seen Mark Langston pitch--not tonight, but this year. He looks like the Mark Langston of old.”

Langston pitched into the eighth inning, giving up a single to Carlos Baerga and a double to Ward before being relieved by Mark Eichhorn. Beau Allred ended the shutout with a sacrifice fly and Mike Huff singled home Ward with the second run.

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The Angels got those runs back and more in the ninth inning against Doug Jones and Steve Olin. The highlight was a two-run double by Winfield to tie Joe DiMaggio for 25th place on the all-time RBI list at 1,537.

“This is significant, Joe DiMaggio, because in New York they would always compare everybody with Joe DiMaggio,” Winfield said. “He’s significant.”

Next in line is Willie Stargell, who had 1,540 RBIs.

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