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Langston Finds Some Relief Off the Field : Baseball: Family and friends lift his spirits after the Angel bullpen squanders his lead.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bullpen couldn’t pick him up, so it was left to his two daughters and Jim Abbott’s new dog to lift Mark Langston’s spirits Sunday. An hour after he had held the Yankee hit parade at bay for 8 1/3 innings, Langston was in the hall outside the Angel clubhouse, cavorting with kids and puppies and trying to think about anything but the afternoon’s events.

Langston took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning. He left after getting Danny Tartabull to pop up, giving up a single to Mike Stanley and walking Jim Leyritz.

Enter Joe Grahe and then pinch-hitter Don Mattingly.

Exit ball from the playing field and the Yankees from town with a four-game sweep.

“Unfortunately, that’s the game of baseball,” Langston said. “But it would have been a nice win after the way New York has taken it to us.”

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Langston, who said he had his best stuff of the season, had struck out a season-high 10 batters. But he also had thrown 143 pitches when Manager Marcel Lachemann went out to get him in the ninth.

“He was grinding all he could, but he just had nothing left,” Lachemann said. “He was reaching back for everything he had, but he was done.”

Langston, while willing to admit he would have welcomed the chance to stay in the game, would not criticize Lachemann’s decision.

“You always would like to stay out there and finish it,” he said, “but Marcel’s the manager, it’s his decision and Joe Grahe is our closer. He made the right decision. And if Mattingly hits into a double play, nobody would be second-guessing it.”

Unfortunately for Langston and the Angels, Mattingly lined a shot into the right-field bleachers for his first pinch-hit home run.

“It just shows you how well Mark pitched,” Lachemann said. “How they hit us the last three games and what they did after he came out.”

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It took seven precious pitches to get Tartabull to open the ninth and then Langston got two quick strikes on Stanley before hanging a curveball that the Yankee first baseman grounded into the hole at short. Langston then fell behind Leyritz and walked him on five pitches.

“I wanted to stay aggressive,” Langston said. “I wasn’t going to give in to (Leyritz), even on the 3-1 pitch, because he’s the kind of guy who can put it in the seats. I knew going into the inning that if a couple of guys got on, the bullpen would be coming in, but I wasn’t going to groove one.”

Langston appeared anything but eager to leave the mound, however, shaking his head in apparent disagreement with Lachemann’s decision. The scheduled hitter, Gerald Williams, had struck out in his previous two at-bats with some particularly feeble swings.

And even though the Yankees had two potential Hall of Fame left-handed hitters--Mattingly and Wade Boggs--waiting on the bench, Lachemann went to designated closer Grahe, a right-hander.

“I felt as good today as I have the whole year,” Langston said. “I had a good fastball and I was throwing it for strikes. I had a good breaking ball and I was throwing the changeup where I wanted it.

“It’s disappointing, but there’s nothing like having your family to pick you up, to give you a little perspective. You have to remember that all you can do is give it all you’ve got and hope to win.

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“And all we can do now is forget about today and try to get started on a roll on Tuesday.”

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