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When Angels Bat, Langston’s Sweating It Out

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mark Langston wandered around the Angel clubhouse, had a cup of coffee, listened to the game on the radio and tried desperately to remain focused on the job at hand.

On the field meanwhile, Langston’s teammates battered another overmatched pitching staff. The inning dragged on and on as Langston waited for his chance to pitch again.

Was this any way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Langston said he didn’t mind.

“I’ve never even seen a team that’s as powerful offensively as this team,” Langston said after the Angels’ 10-5 victory over the New York Yankees at Anaheim Stadium. “The offense has really carried the pitching staff this season. This has been so much fun. I’m really grateful.”

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By now, the scenario should be familiar. The score is close. Maybe the Angels lead by a run or two. Maybe they trail. But soon enough their offensive barrage begins.

It happened again Sunday.

This time, Langston tried to slip a first-inning changeup past Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams. Williams slipped the pitch over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.

The Angels then rallied and built a 5-2 lead. Langston, bearing down after his first-inning mistake, had just retired his eighth consecutive batter. In the pivotal fifth, the Angels hit a three-run homer, a two-run homer, sent eight batters to the plate and turned a fairly close game into a rout.

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“I was in here trying to keep a sweat,” Langston said after pitching 6 2/3 strong innings and improving to 13-2. “The innings can go on for so long.”

There isn’t a pitcher throwing anywhere who wouldn’t mind having that problem. If it really is a problem.

Langston has pitched for enough punchless teams in his career, so he’s never going to complain about the wait while his teammates explode for five runs in an inning.

“Mentally, I’ve got to push myself,” he said of pitching with such big leads. “I have lapses, like in the seventh. I’ve got to grind a little harder.”

He might have pitched longer, but with the Angels ahead, 10-4, with two outs in the seventh, Manager Marcel Lachemann decided he’d seen enough.

“He might have lost a little bit at the end and was getting the ball up,” catcher Greg Myers said.

It hardly seemed to matter. The bullpen mopped up and Langston had his fifth victory in his past six starts. He’s won 11 of 15 starts since suffering what he called “the worst start I’ve ever had.”

That would be a nightmarish third of an inning against New York on June 4 at Yankee Stadium. You’ve seen Charlie Brown giving up screaming line drive after screaming line drive in the Peanuts cartoon? Langston’s outing was a little like that. He gave up eight runs and six hits.

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Langston said he didn’t think about that game after Wade Boggs’ leadoff single and Williams’ 375-foot homer.

“After Bernie hit that pitch I had to tell myself to be more aggressive,” Langston said. “I was lucky to get out of the inning and the boys picked me up. It was a pretty good wake-up call. It was a sign for me to start making better pitches.”

The Yankees couldn’t get a runner past first base against Langston until the seventh. By then, the Angels held an eight-run lead and Langston’s team-leading 13th victory was almost assured.


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