New Hope Is Earned by Valera : Angels: Relief pitcher takes over after Robinson is sidelined because of back spasms in 3-2 victory over the A’s.


Before he could get his fastball over the plate, Julio Valera had to get over his fright.

Thrust into the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Athletics after Angel starter Don Robinson developed back spasms that aggravated an arthritic condition in his left hip, Valera acknowledged that he was “a little nervous” about facing Oakland’s Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson.

“I’d seen them on TV and I know what they can do,” Valera said. “It was kind of difficult because it was the third time I came out of the bullpen in the big leagues. When I start, I get plenty of time to go over the hitters. Tonight, I didn’t have time. But after the first pitch, I said to myself, ‘This is just another game. Go right at them.’ After that, I got my fastball over and all my pitches over.”

When the game was over, Valera had his first American League victory, ending the Angels’ 10-game losing streak against the A’s. Bryan Harvey struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fourth save and help the Angels get their first victory in eight games at the Oakland Coliseum since Oct. 3, 1990.


“He went out there like he’d been doing it all his life,” Angel Manager Buck Rogers said of Valera (1-1).

“It was important for us to win this one to quiet some of the negative stuff. We’re going to play Oakland tough. With our pitching, we’re going to play a lot of teams tough. It was important to win, probably more than against other teams, because we had a lousy record against Oakland.”

Robinson will go on the disabled list today for the eighth time in his 15-season career. He is 1-0 with a 2.20 earned-run average in three starts this season.

“I invented some pitches tonight,” said Robinson, who gave up a run during the second on a double by Mark McGwire, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch and then yielded a towering home run to McGwire in the fourth.

“I felt the back spasms on the high fastball I threw to Canseco in the first inning, and I kept coming up here (to the clubhouse) to stretch, but it didn’t help.

“I wasn’t going to pitch for 11, 12 days anyway. They were going to skip me next time around. It would have been hard to send somebody out, because everybody’s pitching well. It was the best decision.”


The move will open a spot for Chuck Finley to be activated off the disabled list in time for him to start today. If Robinson wasn’t having physical problems, Valera probably would have found himself headed to triple-A Edmonton when Finley was activated.

Valera, acquired from the New York Mets April 12 and the loser of a well-pitched game at Texas April 15 in his only start, didn’t want to consider the possibility of a demotion.

“I can’t worry about that,” he said. “I don’t make the decisions. I just want to do my best. If I pitch like I did tonight, they’ve got to do something, keep me in the bullpen or the rotation.”

The Angels, who hadn’t defeated the A’s since April 18, 1991, ended that futility largely because of the success of players who weren’t even with the team through most of the losing streak.

Lee Stevens gave them the lead against Dave Stewart (1-1) with a leadoff home run to right during the second inning, stopping Stewart’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 16. The A’s tied the score during the bottom of the inning, but Stewart lost the strike zone in the third, walking Gary DiSarcina, Luis Polonia and Von Hayes before Hubie Brooks brought in DiSarcina with a sacrifice fly. Stewart also walked Stevens, but Mike Fitzgerald popped up to end the inning.

Rene Gonzales’ second homer in 10 Angel at-bats gave the Angels a 3-1 lead during the fourth, and although McGwire’s homer made it close, the A’s never got a runner past first against Valera or Harvey.


“I hate to say it, but you don’t necessarily always want cakewalks,” Gonzales said. “You want to win those one-run games because it uplifts you for the next day.”

The next day, today, brings the finale of their series against the A’s and of a road trip during which they are 6-2.

“Last year, we thought about our losing streak against Oakland before we got into the field, and if it was a close game, we lost,” Harvey said.

“A lot of these guys are not the same guys who were with the team last year.”

Said Stevens: “The big thing is that we won a close game. Every game we play is going to be close. We had trouble winning one-run games last year, and it’s good to get a one-run victory. It builds your confidence.”