Langston Does the Dirty Work, Stops His Recent Skid


The Angels’ starting pitcher was missing a tooth Thursday night.

Rest assured, that was not Mark Langston’s novel approach to keeping the Angels in the playoff chase. It happened quite by accident.

Langston walked off the field Wednesday night at Seattle’s Kingdome, chewing a piece of gum when suddenly one of his two front teeth turned to dust.

Actually, it was a cap. He had lost the tooth in his youth.

“Nice fight,” Mike Bielecki said to Langston Thursday as he settled into a nearby locker stall after the Angels’ 4-1 victory over Oakland at Anaheim Stadium.


“I look like I survived the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Langston said.

In hockey lingo, Langston mucked along the boards. He wasn’t Wayne Gretzky Thursday. More like Tiger Williams.

This was a battle Langston simply had to win. Another bad start and the Angels’ season would be almost history.

Troy Percival picked up the victory, pitching 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief. Lee Smith pitched a scoreless ninth and earned his 36th save.

Langston simply set it all up, giving up six hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings. No decision, but it certainly beat the alternative--another loss.

“My last two starts have been horrible,” Langston said of giving up seven runs in each of the past two outings. “I haven’t done anything.”

He didn’t make anyone forget Cy Young, but he came through with a solid performance, yielding to Percival with two outs and the score tied, 1-1, in the seventh.


By pitching well, Langston subdued the twin demons of his recent failures and the aching tendinitis in his left biceps.

The Angels seemed to get the appropriate return on their investment in Langston. They’re paying him $5 million this season, but until Thursday it seemed to be money not well spent.

Sure, he had won 15 games against six losses, but with the Angels on the skids, their big lead in the American League West gone, their chances for a playoff berth slipping away, they desperately needed something big from Langston.

“They’ve all been big starts,” Langston said. “Every start has been critical for us.”

It seemed he wasn’t pulling his weight.

Langston watched the season’s final week begin with Jim Abbott’s 5-0 shutout of Texas on Sunday. The Angels were drilled, 10-2, Tuesday in Seattle, then Chuck Finley, with help from Percival and Smith, shut out Seattle, 2-0, Wednesday.

Finley pitched on three days rest because Manager Marcel Lachemann decided to give Langston an extra day between starts.

“Obviously, an extra day was a blessing,” Langston said. “I’ve been very inconsistent. This [Thursday’s victory] makes us believe. We have to believe we can win. That’s what we did when we were winning [in August].


“We were aggressive and expected to win.”