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Stewart Is Doing What Comes Naturally

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dave Stewart is no longer flirting with winning the Cy Young award, as he has the past four seasons.

He’s not getting ahead of hitters the way he used to. The victories aren’t coming as easily as they used to.

But he continued to do two things right Friday night--pitch well on the road . . . and pitch well against the Angels.

He held the Angels to four runs on eight hits before being relieved by Rick Honeycutt with one out in the seventh inning in a 5-4 Oakland victory at Anaheim Stadium.

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In doing so, he improved his career record against the Angels to 13-5, and his road record this season to 8-2.

“I’ll take wins any way I can get them this year,” Stewart said. “I made some mistakes, but I pitched well enough to win.”

After winning a combined 84 games in the past four seasons--best in the majors--Stewart has struggled to a 9-6 record and a 5.28 earned-run average this season.

It’s his worst season since 1985, when he was 0-5 with a 5.42 ERA with Texas.

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In his previous three starts, Stewart gave up 17 earned runs in 17 innings. The right-hander also missed nearly three weeks in May with a strained muscle under his left rib cage--his first stint on the disabled list in his 10-year major league career.

But Stewart put together a solid performance Friday night, striking out three, walking four and throwing 109 pitches.

After giving up an inside-the-park homer to Luis Polonia, the first batter he faced, Stewart cruised through the next four innings, not allowing a runner past first base.

But with the Athletics leading, 5-1, in the sixth, Donnie Hill and Wally Joyner singled, and Dave Parker sent a 1-1 pitch off his former Oakland teammate over the left-center field fence.

“Parker’s an accomplished hitter and the only way to pitch to him is not make mistakes,” Stewart said.

Said A’s Manager Tony La Russa: “Dave had a good fastball with a lot of life. He made a couple of mistakes on some off-speed pitches with Polonia and Parker, and they drilled it. Parker has done that a couple of times in his career.”

Stewart got some help from Honeycutt, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and from Dennis Eckersley, who retired the Angels in order in the ninth for his major league-leading 31st save. Eckersley has retired 20 consecutive batters in his past seven outings for seven saves.

“Eckersley is in a good groove right now,” La Russa said. “That was a tough save.”

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But one that Stewart said he needed.

“I can appreciate (Honeycutt and Eckersley),” Stewart said. “It was a tight game, and there was no room for error. It’s nice to see them come in and shut everybody down.”


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