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This Time, Salmon’s Hit Counts : Angels: After hitting home runs in frustrating losses, right fielder’s three-run homer in the eighth, helps beat Royals.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Tim Salmon jogged to his position in right field late in Monday’s Angels-Kansas City Royals game, a strange sensation swept over him.

“Wow, this is the last inning,” he said to himself.

It had been awhile since the Angels had a big lead and only had to watch their starting pitcher preserve it in the top of the ninth inning.

It also had been awhile since Salmon could say one of his home runs had an impact on an Angel victory.

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But both happened in the Angels’ 6-1 victory over the Royals at Anaheim Stadium.

The Angels had stumbled so often recently, primarily because of their poor pitching, that Salmon’s offensive punch had gone unnoticed. Or at least overshadowed.

That’s why Salmon, who hit a three-run homer in the Angels’ pivotal four-run eighth, went to play the field in the top of the ninth wondering how the game had slipped by so quickly, so trouble-free. Salmon’s homer and Mark Langston’s complete-game victory enabled the Angels a rare night off from blown leads, four-hour games and extra-inning losses.

“You know it’s great when you’re hitting home runs, but when you’re losing it doesn’t mean as much,” Salmon said after hitting his fourth homer in the past three games.

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“You still go home mad if you’re losing.”

Salmon’s homer, his 23rd this year, came against Kansas City reliever Stan Belinda with no outs in the eighth, turning a tight game into a runaway. Langston did the rest.

Later, Salmon dismissed the notion that he is on a tear similar to the one earlier this season, when he hit five homers in four games May 11-15.

“I don’t feel hot,” Salmon said Monday.

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His numbers on the home stand would indicate otherwise. Since returning from the disabled list with a strained right hamstring on Aug. 3, Salmon is eight for 23 (.349) with four homers, seven RBIs and five runs.

“It’s been a lot of luck and a lot of bad pitches,” he said. “They are throwing fastballs right over the plate.”

Salmon said that’s the only reason he has been tormenting pitchers over the past four games. That’s the difference between this run of homers and the one in May. Now, he’s hitting mistakes.

“Then I was hitting everything no matter where they would throw it,” he said.

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Apparently, Belinda left a fastball where he shouldn’t have and Salmon made him pay for his mistake.

With Chad Curtis on second base, after a single, and Chili Davis on first, after a walk, Salmon worked the count to 3-and-1 against Belinda.

When the next pitch came, Salmon sent a drive over the right-center field fence. A moment later, Royal Manager Hal McRae replaced Belinda with Mike Magnante, but Salmon had put the game out of reach by then.


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