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Langston Gets Back to Basics in 10-3 Victory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Twenty-three days after undergoing surgery to remove 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 kept them quiet long enough for Angel hitters to overwhelm them in a 10-3 victory before 21,603.

Langston only lasted five innings, but they were the most remarkable five innings tossed by an Angel pitcher this season. He 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.

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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 be back early. I felt good out there. I just tried to throw strikes.”

There are other 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 from the disabled list and showed no signs of the shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him. Eichhorn pitched a scoreless eighth.

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Langston’s return means the Angels won’t have to lean exclusively on Chuck Finley and hope for unexpected contributions from Shawn Boskie and Jason Grimsley.

“We have good pitching out there,” Langston said. “We all need to step up. Grimsley’s outing the other night was huge. Chuck’s always been consistent. They’re a tough act to follow.”

Said Manager Marcel Lachemann: “Just to have him back is great. 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 would need from Rex Hudler, who had a career-high five runs batted in. The Angels’ five-run second inning and five-run fourth didn’t exactly 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 sent 11 to the plate in the fourth and extended their lead to 10-1.

Don Slaught’s looping single to center 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 ball 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 his 10th homer this season and renewed the debate about finding a place for him to play each day. He has been a superb replacement for center fielder Jim Edmonds, sidelined since Sunday with a strained stomach muscle.

In the fourth, 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 snapping out of a slump that dropped his average to .257 before Friday.

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

Hudler is batting .392 (29 for 74) with nine homers and 18 RBIs in 19 games as the Angels’ leadoff hitter. He has homered in six of the past nine games he’s played.

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