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Langston, Back Sooner Than Later, Gets Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Twenty-three days after undergoing surgery for damaged cartilage in his right knee, Mark Langston was back on the Anaheim Stadium mound sweeping away the dirt from the rubber.

Five innings later, it looked as if he had never been away. He didn’t blow away the Baltimore Orioles, but merely held them quiet long enough for Angel hitters to overwhelm them in a 10-3 victory Friday night before 21,603.

They were the most remarkable five innings pitched by an Angel this season. Langston gave up one run on three hits with two strikeouts and three walks.

Not bad work for a guy who figured to be on the mend for six to eight weeks, instead of pitching against one of the American League’s top teams after little more than three.

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“I just wanted to get back to basics,” Langston said. “To see the guys respond to me was great. My goal was always to come back early. I felt good out there. I just wanted to throw strikes.”

There are still many pressing issues surrounding the Angel pitching staff, such as how to get left-hander Jim Abbott out of his season-long funk.

What’s more, Chuck McElroy made his Angel debut after being traded from Cincinnati for Lee Smith on Monday and raised more questions than he answered. McElroy relieved Langston to start the sixth, but gave up two runs on five hits in two shaky innings.

Reliever Mark Eichhorn also returned after time on the disabled list and showed no signs of the shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him. Eichhorn pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

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But at least now the Angels won’t have to lean exclusively on Chuck Finley and hope for unexpected contributions from Shawn Boskie and Jason Grimsley.

The Angels’ one-two punch is back.

“Just to have him back is great,” Manager Marcel Lachemann said. “I think all the guys felt Mark would beat the timetable back. Basically, he did it because he’s a great athlete and he’s very focused.”

Langston (3-1) got all the help he needed from Rex Hudler, who had five runs batted in. The Angels’ five-run second inning and five-run fourth didn’t hurt Langston’s chances either.

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The Angels sent eight batters to the plate in the second against Baltimore starter David Wells, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 lead. They batted around in the fourth and extended their lead to 10-1.

Don Slaught’s looping single to center field with one out in the second knocked in two runs and gave him his first multiple-RBI game since April 14.

Wells (3-5) lost a chance to get out of the inning without further damage, but Roberto Alomar’s relay throw to first on Gary DiSarcina’s double-play grounder pulled Rafael Palmeiro off the bag.

Hudler, the next batter, made the Orioles pay with a three-run homer into the left-field stands near the foul pole.

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It was Hudler’s 10th homer.

In the fourth inning, Hudler’s two-run double gave the Angels a 7-1 lead. Tim Salmon added a two-run homer off reliever Archie Corbin and showed signs he’s breaking out of a hitting slump that dropped his average to .257 before Friday.

For Hudler, Friday’s hitting display came on the heels of several other standout performances this week.

He had his first five-hit game Sunday and went into Friday’s game batting .400 (eight for 20) on the home stand.

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Moreover, in 19 games as lead-off hitter Hudler is batting .392 (29 for 74) with nine homers and 18 RBIs.

“I tried to provide a spark for the team,” Hudler said. “I don’t mean to be flaming.”

Hudler appears to be just the jolt the Angels need as they try to shake their early season funk.


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