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Boskie Surprises Even Himself

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

He went nine superb innings, flirting with a complete-game shutout before settling on a five-hit, 4-1, victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday.

Introducing the Angels’ new stopper, the man who restored order to the beleaguered starting rotation and who gave the bullpen its first night off since Aug. 7.

He’s Shawn Boskie, the No. 4 starter in the Angels’ four-man rotation they expect to carry them to the American League West title.

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You were expecting Mark Langston perhaps? Or Chuck Finley? Or Jim Abbott?

Boskie is a right-hander who hadn’t won since June 25, who hadn’t pitched a complete game since June 27, 1994, when he was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and who still has not thrown a shutout in the major leagues.

As the game progressed, even Boskie (7-4) seemed unsure what to make of his mastery of the White Sox. Several times he told himself to slow down, focus on the next pitch, the next batter.

“I said, ‘Whoa, I’ve seen this stuff fall apart before,’ ” Boskie said.

Funny thing was, this time Boskie held it all together over nine innings.

White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura ruined Boskie’s shutout bid with a bases-empty home run in the top of the ninth. But Boskie finished strong, quickly retiring the next three batters and polishing off the Angels’ third victory in four games.

“I was disappointed for a minute there, then I went after the next guy,” Boskie said. “That would have been a great time for a shutout because we’ve been struggling a little bit.”

Suddenly, the news coming from the Angel staff is filled with hope and confidence rather than fear and loathing.

Sunday they used nine pitchers but couldn’t subdue the Minnesota Twins in a 9-8, 10-inning loss.

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Monday, they needed only Boskie.

“That was a very big pick-me-up,” Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann said. “To get an effort like that now is just outstanding.”

There was simply no way anyone could have predicted Boskie would pitch quite that well, and that’s certainly what made Boskie’s performance so exceptional.

After all, he lost his past two starts since coming back from the disabled list. He had a loss and a no-decision in two starts before going on the DL July 17 because of an inflamed right elbow.

His last victory was a 7-5 win over Seattle on June 25 and hardly ranked as an eye-catching start. He lasted only 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs and 10 hits in throwing 129 pitches.

Monday’s start was far more memorable. Boskie, who threw 122 pitches, didn’t allow a runner past second base until Ventura’s homer.

“Tim Raines popped up a pitch [in the first inning] and that got me rolling and into a rhythm and the rhythm was the popups,” said Boskie, who retired 14 White Sox on popups or fly outs. “I don’t understand it and I’m not going to try.”

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