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Angels Go to Bat for Leftwich, 14-2

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel starter Phil Leftwich had always tried to visualize this day, wondering how his first victory in the major leagues would evolve.

Would it be one of those 2-1 pitching battles? Maybe striking out the final batter in the ninth inning with the bases loaded?

“I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time, picturing a million scenarios,” Leftwich said after the Angels routed the Seattle Mariners, 14-2, Sunday. “But I’ll be honest, this wasn’t one of them.

“I don’t want to make it sound like I’m disappointed, it’s just that there wasn’t a whole lot of drama. Once I was given a couple of touchdowns, it kind of changed the whole face of the game.”

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Leftwich doesn’t want to seem ungrateful by any means, but when you have a seven-run lead before pitching in the second inning, it’s tough to get an adrenaline rush.

By the time the barrage ended, the 21,593 fans at the Kingdome didn’t know whether they had just watched a game or a prolonged batting practice.

The Angels pounded out a season-high 22 hits--four shy of the club record--in gaining the most lopsided victory since the two teams began playing one another in 1977. It was also the Angels’ largest margin of victory this season.

Eight Angels produced at least two hits apiece; eight scored at least one run, and five had two or more runs batted in, including a career-high four RBIs by catcher Greg Myers.

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“I think there was a lot of satisfaction in winning a game like we did today,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. “It could be that a lot of guys were visualizing Randy Johnson on the mound rather than Tim Leary.”

Johnson drew the Angels’ hatred Saturday night for hitting second baseman Rod Correia with a pitch, and they unleashed their hostilities against Leary (8-5), driving him out of the game after 1 2/3 innings.

Mariner Manager Lou Piniella tried five pitchers in a futile attempt to quell the Angels (54-62), but the only one to come away unscathed was rookie Erik Platenberg, who pitched a scoreless ninth.

“I think guys still remember that Yankee game when we blew that (eight-run) lead,” Myers said. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

The most difficult task for Leftwich (1-3) after the second inning was simply retaining his concentration. Not only was he pitching with what became the Angels’ largest lead of the season, he was sitting on the bench for what seemed to be an eternity while the Angels kept batting.

“There were a few times I thought, ‘Hey, mix in a few outs so I can get out there,’ ” said Leftwich, who gave up eight hits and two runs in seven innings. “I got mad at myself a few times because I’d throw a couple of pitches, and then catch myself kind of wandering.

“I can’t ever remember being given a lead like that in professional ball, but hey, I’m sure I can get used to it.”

Leftwich, who was not on the Angels’ 40-man roster until he was called up on July 28 to replace Scott Sanderson in the rotation, continues to impress the Angels with his poise. Instead of acting like a nervous 24-year-old rookie trying to make an impression, he pitches as if he’s been playing in the majors his entire career.

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“He’s not one of those guys who seems in awe to be in the big leagues,” said Angel designated hitter Chili Davis. “He acts like he belongs.”

Leftwich, who pitched six shutout innings before tiring in the seventh, is scheduled to remain in the rotation the rest of the season. The Angels plan to juggle their staff with the possible arrival of left-handed starter Joe Magrane, but Leftwich will remain put.

Magrane requested and received his unconditional release Sunday from the St. Louis Cardinals, and if he clears waivers, could be signed as early as Thursday by the Angels.


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