Angels Find Eight Isn't Enough : Baseball: They blow eight-run lead, lose ninth in a row when Yankees score two in ninth. DiSarcina error hurts.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina couldn't move. He sat in front of his locker Sunday afternoon, staring ahead at the blank wall for nearly 30 minutes, while his teammates dressed hurriedly to catch the team plane.

DiSarcina wouldn't budge until he replayed that ninth-inning ground ball in his mind one last time, believing he was ultimately responsible for the Angels' emotionally devastating 9-8 defeat to the New York Yankees.

It was a routine ground ball. All he had to do was pick it up, flip it to second baseman Torey Lovullo for the double play, and the Angels' losing streak would be over.

It seemed so simple. He went to his left, was directly in front of the ball, and then it happened. The ball rolled up his glove, off his wrist, and 50,429 fans screamed while he ran into shallow left field to retrieve it.

"It was a nightmare," DiSarcina said, barely above a whisper. "I made an error, and it just so happened to cost the team the game.

"I know you've got to take the good with the bad, but that was a very bad moment in my career. It's not the sole reason we lost, but it's pretty much on top of the list."

This was a game the Angels led, 8-0, after an eight-run second inning. They led, 8-4, after six innings.

They still led, 8-7, entering the ninth, and were confident they would win, particularly after first baseman J.T. Snow speared Don Mattingly's drive in the eighth for an inning-ending double play.

It ended with Pat Kelly slapping a two-out single into left field, scoring Hensley Meulens for the Yankees' biggest comeback since June 26, 1987, when they trailed the Boston Red Sox by nine runs.

Angel officials did not know when they have blown a bigger lead, saying only it brought back memories of their 1989 game against Milwaukee, which they led, 7-0, and lost, 20-7.

"I thought there was no way we'd lose this game," Angel catcher Ron Tingley said. "Come on, an eight-run lead?

"But we never put them away. We should have buried them, put 15, 16 runs on the board and just embarrassed them. They're the ones who embarrassed us."

Said losing reliever Steve Frey (2-1): "We've hit the bottom of the barrel. When you're up 8-nothing, and lose . . . it's just hard to describe something like this.

"It's hard to say what this will do to us."

The loss sent the Angels staggering home with their ninth consecutive loss, ending their worst trip (1-10) of 11 or more games in franchise history. The Angels also are one defeat shy of equaling the longest losing streak in the major leagues this season, set last month by the Detroit Tigers.

Yet this one might have been more devastating than the previous eight combined, Manager Buck Rodgers said, "especially considering the circumstances we're in now."

Rodgers said that he probably will call a team meeting before tonight's game against Oakland, trying to ensure that the trip is wiped from their memories. For DiSarcina, it might not happen so quickly.

"I feel as low as you can get," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and cry about it, but we had this game, it was ours.

"It seemed like they had nine lives, and we ran out of them."

The Angels, producing their biggest inning in four years with their eight-run, nine-hit second inning, took an 8-7 lead into the ninth.

Danny Tartabull led off with a walk when first base umpire Ed Wilcox ruled that he didn't go around on a check-swing.

It appeared that it might be inconsequential when Mike Stanley followed with a grounder to DiSarcina.

"We had a ball hit to the most dependable infielder we've got," Rodgers said. "There's nothing more you could want, but we blew the play, and it cost us the ballgame."

With Bernie Williams attempting to bunt, Tingley couldn't hold Frey's low pitch, and the passed ball allowed Tartabull and pinch-runner Meulens to advance to second and third. The Angels intentionally walked Williams, loading the bases.

Paul O'Neill tied the score on a sacrifice fly to left. Mike Gallego, whose two-out error in the second inning led to six runs, made the second out on a fly ball to center, deep enough to advance Meulens to third. Kelly then slapped the first pitch from Frey into left field, sending the Yankees' bench into hysteria.

"I'm getting out of there just in time," the Angels' Chili Davis said, "because the way I'm feeling now, I'd like to tear this city up."

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