Rain Delays, Can't Stop, This Victory by Angels

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has been billed as one of the game's great utility players, a guy who has manned seven different positions while retaining his stature as one of the American League's top leadoff hitters.

But don't think for a minute the sudden move from left field to third base this week hasn't caused a degree of anxiety for the Angels' Tony Phillips, who has a glove for every occasion.

"Yeah, right, I can play anywhere," Phillips said as he dressed before Thursday night's rain-delayed 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. "I keep trying to convince myself I can do this. . . . I don't know, I'll be all right."

All right might have to suffice, because if new left fielder Garret Anderson keeps playing the way he did Thursday night, Phillips could spend the rest of this season at third.

Anderson had three hits and knocked in two runs in his first three at-bats before an announced crowd of 13,544 at Anaheim Stadium.

"Leave him alone; let him get his feet wet; don't start writing articles about him yet," teammate Chili Davis said as reporters waited for Anderson after the game.

"We know he can play; that's why he's here. But let him be quiet for a month or two, then you can write all that stuff."

Angel starter Mike Bielecki (3-3) struggled with his control, walking six, but still managed to pitch 6 1/3 strong innings, giving up one run and five hits and striking out three.

Bielecki had lost his last three starts, giving up 14 runs in 18 1/3 innings. He hadn't won since May 21, when he gave up one run in the Angels' 8-6 victory over the White Sox in Comiskey Park.

The right-hander ran into trouble in the seventh inning when Lance Johnson, who ended an 0-for-22 skid with a third-inning double, and Tim Raines each singled with one out.

Manager Marcel Lachemann replaced Bielecki with right-hander Mike James, who walked Frank Thomas--it was the Chicago first baseman's third walk of the night--to load the bases.

But left-hander Bob Patterson came on to retire Robin Ventura on a sacrifice fly to right field, cutting the lead to 5-1, and then struck out pinch-hitter Lyle Mouton to end the inning.

Troy Percival pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Angels. Percival put the first two runners on in the ninth, but Lee Smith came on to retire three consecutive batters and get his 17th consecutive save.

"I don't know if you can expect anyone to be that good, but he's done it before, so I guess you can expect it from him," Lachemann said of Smith. "He's amazing."

Anderson, a rookie who has been a triple-A sensation the past two years but hasn't had much of a chance to display his skills in the major leagues, made his third consecutive start in left Thursday.

He hit a three-run homer Monday night to lead the Angels past the Minnesota Twins and jump-started the Angel offense Thursday night after a 44-minute rain delay--the first in Anaheim Stadium since April 14, 1988--with a double to right in the second.

Anderson scored on Jorge Fabregas' single for a 1-0 lead, and his two-run single in the third capped a three-run inning that gave the Angels a 4-0 lead.

Phillips, who went five for five against the Twins on Wednesday, led off the inning with a double to left, Jim Edmonds walked and, after Tim Salmon grounded out, Phillips scored on J.T. Snow's chopper to second. Anderson then laced a single to center for two more runs.

The Angels pushed the lead to 5-0 in the fifth when Snow hit his seventh home run of the season, and first since May 29, bringing an end to Chicago starter Brian Keyser's evening.

Second baseman Damion Easley, who sat out the last five games because of a sprained right wrist, returned to the starting lineup and was hitless in his first three at-bats. But he fielded his position flawlessly, with five assists.

The rain delay was the first in Anaheim Stadium since April 14, 1988, also a Thursday game against the White Sox.

That game started on time, but after two minutes of play and a full count on Johnson, Chicago's leadoff batter, umpires called for the grounds crew to place the tarp on the field. The game was called after a 1-hour 42-minute delay.

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