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Easley’s Bat Keys Angels’ Rare Victory : Baseball: His two homers are among the oddities in 5-3 triumph over Chicago that stops nine-game losing streak at home.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Predictability took a beating Friday night at Anaheim Stadium.

The new, $3.6-million scoreboard went on the fritz for the first five innings of its scheduled debut, but all things considered that hardly ranked as the most shocking event of the evening.

There was so much more to ponder in the Angels’ 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox in front of 30,274.

Angel second baseman Damion Easley, batting .211 when the night began, hit not one but two home runs in a three-hit, three RBI night. He hadn’t homered in almost three months before Friday.

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Chicago first baseman Frank Thomas, having a season of Ruthian proportions, went hitless in four plate appearances. He did walk once.

Angel reliever Russ Springer kept the White Sox hitless in 1 1/3 innings to earn his second career save.

And the Angels stopped a nine-game losing streak at home, winning for only the third time in 14 games overall.

“Oh, baby,” Manager Marcel Lachemann said. “A win anywhere is nice, but a win here is especially nice.”

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Until Easley stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning Friday, the Angels appeared to find their usual rut, playing their distinctive brand of listless baseball to the hilt.

Chicago built a 2-0 lead on solo home runs by Robin Ventura, in the second inning, and Julio Franco, in the fourth, off Angel starter Chuck Finley (9-10).

The Angels mounted little in the way of offense against Chicago starter Wilson Alvarez until Easley’s two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth tied the score, 2-2. It was Easley’s fifth homer this season, but his first since May 10 against Texas.

By his next at-bat, in the seventh, Chicago had regained the lead, 3-2. But Easley hit a 3-and-2 pitch from Alvarez over the left-field wall for a bases-empty homer, completing the first two-home run game of his career.

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Jim Edmonds’ one-out, run-scoring double later in the inning gave the Angels the lead for good at 4-3. It was preserved by Springer, who extended a modest streak of scoreless innings to 12 2/3 innings.

That might not sound like much, but it’s the longest streak by an Angel reliever this season.

Easley has suffered perhaps the most dismal slide of any of the Angel hitters, enduring an eight for 49 skid (.163) in his past 15 games.

In 36 games since returning from the disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder on June 17, he had batted a punchless .177 (22 for 124).

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He said he believed it will take more than one big game to snap him from his doldrums, however.

“Rod (Carew, Angel hitting coach) and I have talked about everything from the mental side of the game to fundamentals,” Easley said. “It’s just a matter of me doing it. Hopefully, this is part of a lesson I have to learn. I wish it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to wake up.

“By no means is it in my head to hit home runs. But I’ve done a lot of things this year that I don’t normally do. Muscling pitches was one of them.

“Don’t think I’m a power hitter. I’m not. I’ll be out here early (today taking batting practice).”

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Easley had been slotted to be the everyday second baseman when the Angels overhauled their infield in early June. But he has struggled so much, he has shared the position with Harold Reynolds and Rex Hudler.

“He’s a gifted young athlete,” Lachemann said of Easley, a .313 hitter before shin surgery ended his 1993 season in August. “I honestly believe he will come around.”

Without Easley’s contributions, the Angels’ frustrations might have continued unabated Friday.

“It gets to the point where it looks like you get something rolling, like when we swept Boston (July 18-20), but . . . " Lachemann said. “To play at the level we’re playing and still be in the race is probably the most frustrating part of this thing.”

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With a week left before the expected players’ strike, set to begin next Friday, and the last-place Angels starting the game 8 1/2 games out of first and a season-low 21 games below .500, it seemed like a moot point.

The calendar shows it’s early August, but the mood among the Angels (45-65) this past week seemed more like the last week of a forgettable season. And certainly they were not in contention.

But for one night at least, Easley injected a little life into the Angels.


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