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Angels No Longer Are Last

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the first time in more than a month, the Angels can look at the American League West standings this morning with at least a modicum of pride: They are not in last place.

Jim Abbott pitched six shutout innings, and Gary Gaetti hit a run-scoring double in the sixth inning to lift the Angels to a 1-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday before 21,390 in Anaheim Stadium.

It marked the first time in the Angels’ 31 seasons that they have had consecutive 1-0 victories.

It was the first time since Aug. 4 the Angels (68-68) have been at .500. That was the day they fell into last place. Seattle’s loss to Boston Sunday dropped the Mariners into last.

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“It’s always significant to be out of last place,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. “I don’t care how long you’ve been playing this game, no one wants to be cellar-dwellers. That’s horse . . . , whatever you want to call it.”

“That’s pretty nice,” said reliever Bryan Harvey of leaving last place. “What do we have 27 games left? If we play good, who knows? Maybe we can climb up a couple of places. It’s good for where we were at, but not good for this team. We should be battling for first place, but things didn’t work out.”

Though they have scored only 25 runs in 12 games, the Angels are 7-5 since Rodgers replaced Doug Rader on Aug. 26. That includes a three-game sweep, 2-1, 1-0, 1-0, of the Brewers over the weekend. The Angels combined for 17 hits in the three games.

“Right now the pitching is picking up the hitting,” Rodgers said. “That usually goes back and forth. I’d like to see more runs, but the big thing is we won. Over the course of the season, hitters will bail you out of games.”

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Abbott kept the Angels in Sunday’s game through the sixth inning, shutting the Brewers down on five hits. Milwaukee threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs, but Abbott retired Bill Spiers on a grounder to second to end the inning.

Wally Joyner led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field off Milwaukee starter and loser Dan Plesac. Joyner advanced to second base on catcher Rick Dempsey’s passed ball. With one out, Gaetti lined a double to the gap, and Joyner scored easily.

Mark Eichhorn set up Harvey with two shutout innings, and Harvey pitched the ninth for his 37th save. Harvey has allowed one run in his last 21 1/3 innings, spanning 17 games.

Abbott won his seventh consecutive decision to improve to 16-8, and if not for four blown save opportunities by the bullpen in five of his no-decisions, Abbott might be hovering around the 20-victory mark and, possibly, near the top of Cy Young Award voting.

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But Abbott had nothing but praise for the relievers Sunday.

“Those guys have been incredible,” he said. “They’ve been unhittable, and that gives you a lot of confidence when you come out of a game. Those games (the blown saves) are in the past. You can’t do much about them.”


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