Honeymoon Is Over for Angels’ Rodgers : Baseball: He wins game over Tigers, 1-0, but not fans’ support for pulling Abbott in eighth inning.
Buck Rodgers knew he wouldn’t win any popularity contests by taking Jim Abbott out when the left-hander was 7 1/3 innings into a shutout of the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
But winning the game was of greater concern to Rodgers than winning the affection of the 24,882 fans who watched his third game as Angel manager. Lingering tenderness in Abbott’s pitching elbow and other factors persuaded Rodgers to summon right-handed side-armer Mark Eichhorn, no matter that the gesture toward the bullpen triggered a chorus of boos from the Anaheim Stadium crowd.
“The romance lasted 15 minutes,” said Rodgers, who responded to the jeers with a jaunty wave.
If his move didn’t win their approval, the outcome did. Eichhorn retired the two batters he faced, and Bryan Harvey survived a warning-track fly ball by Cecil Fielder in the ninth inning, preserving Abbott’s 1-0 victory.
Rodgers was inclined to let Eichhorn start the eighth, but his coaches’ advice changed his mind.
Having Abbott (14-8) face catcher Andy Allanson removed the threat of left-handed hitting pinch-hitter Lloyd Moseby leading off the inning against Eichhorn, whom Moseby has pounded. Bringing in Eichhorn after Abbott had struck out Allanson turned switch-hitting second baseman Tony Phillips into a left-handed hitter, Phillips’ weaker side by more than 100 points. Phillips obliged by grounding to third base, and Travis Fryman took a third strike to end the inning.
Rodgers looked like a genius after the four-hit shutout, the power-hitting Tigers’ first 1-0 loss this season and the first game in which they had been blanked since June 3, but he deflected the credit to Abbott and the coaching staff.
“I’m the dumbest guy in this clubhouse about the American League,” Rodgers said. “A couple of coaches alerted me (to Moseby’s dominance of Eichhorn), and that’s good. . . . I’m glad people disagree. They got their favorite on the mound, and they want to see him out there. I didn’t expect everybody was going to stand up and cheer.”
Abbott acknowledged that he was surprised to see Rodgers come to the mound, but he accepted the manager’s decision stoically. “I figured I’d start the inning and go through it--that’s the approach I’ve been used to,” Abbott said. “But I don’t want to make a big issue of it. We won the game. Ike and Harv pitched well, and I’m glad things worked out the way they did.”
Abbott, some of whose relatives watched the telecast of the game in his hometown of Flint, Mich., was unflappable while winning his fifth consecutive game and seventh in the past eight. Singles by Pete Incaviglia and Skeeter Barnes in the fifth inning produced Detroit’s only serious threat, and Abbott got out of that by inducing Allanson to pop up and Phillips to ground into a force play.
Abbott helped his own cause in the sixth by leaping to spear a high chopper by Alan Trammell and whirling to throw to second base for a forceout on Fryman, who had singled.
The Angels scored their run in the sixth inning, foiling the attempt of right-hander Bill Gullickson (16-7) to become the major leagues’ first 17-game winner. Luis Sojo led off with a single to left field and was removed for pinch-runner Dick Schofield. Ron Tingley neatly sacrificed Schofield to second, and Luis Polonia sent him home with a double down the left-field line.
“We might have been shut out (other times), but not like that. We never had a chance,” Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson said after his team fell 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.
Abbott’s victory reduced his earned-run average to 2.95, fifth-best in the AL, and improved his record in day games to 8-1. “I don’t have time to get nervous,” Abbott said, explaining his daylight success.
Although he wasn’t nervous Wednesday, he admitted that he was emotionally drained by the tension that preceded Monday’s firing of Doug Rader as manager.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” Abbott said. “It’s difficult to be excited about a single game. I’m happy, really I am. The Tigers are the team I grew up watching, and to tell you the truth, I’m going to be pulling for them to win the AL East. But it’s been tough for us, and to win a single game is not as gratifying as it might have been.”