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Abbott Has Sympathy Vote, 1-9 Record After Thrashing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They walked from the field, cheers ringing in their ears, the same questions running through their minds. What do we do now? What haven’t we tried? Can this get any worse? Is this the end?

Perhaps only in Anaheim Stadium would there be cheers for Jim Abbott and Manager Marcel Lachemann as they walked to the Angel dugout in the third inning Sunday afternoon.

Abbott lasted only 2 1/3 innings, gave up six runs and five hits with one strikeout and two walks in the Angels’ 14-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles before 33,704.

“I really don’t know what to tell you,” Abbott said. “The results speak for themselves. I have a great manager and a great pitching coach [Chuck Hernandez]. The opportunity is there [to rebound]. All the fault falls squarely on my shoulders.”

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It was another horrid pitching display and when it was over, Lachemann made sure Abbott didn’t walk off alone.

In most cities, the boos would have been thunderous, especially considering this wasn’t the first time Abbott had been terrible. Perhaps only Angel fans would be willing to accept Abbott’s 1-9 record and 7.38 earned-run average.

Lachemann had another theory.

“They were very gracious,” he said. “They understand what he’s going through. The core of our fans are very knowledgeable. They know what he’s going through.”

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That doesn’t mean they have any idea how to snap Abbott out of his season-long funk, however. Sunday’s loss was his fourth in a row and raised his ERA to 14.04 in that span.

Abbott says he is not injured. Lachemann says Abbott’s pitches have the same velocity and the same movement as in the past.

“He’s not throwing as hard as he used to,” said Baltimore first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning. “His breaking stuff is not as sharp.”

Sparky Anderson, providing commentary on Sunday’s telecast, offered another opinion.

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“I think he’s aiming [the ball],” Anderson said. “He’s not throwing, not pitching, not letting his stuff work for him. His velocity isn’t as good, but whose is when you’re pressing and tense? There’s nothing free and easy about [his delivery].”

And the Orioles hit Abbott as if he were throwing batting practice. Abbott faced 14 batters, seven reached base and six scored. The Orioles built a 5-0 lead by the time Lachemann replaced Abbott with rookie Shad Williams with one out in the third inning.

“The only thing I can see, and I’m looking at it from a different perspective, is that his home run pitches seem up in the strike zone,” Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. “I’m not a pitching expert. [Baltimore starter Scott] Erickson’s ball, when it’s down, moves. [Abbott’s] flattens out.”

Said Angel catcher Jorge Fabregas: “When he’s good, he’s down in the zone. I would have to block 10 to 12 pitches in the dirt. That’s a typical Abbott outing.”

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How many of Abbott’s 54 pitches did Fabregas have to dig out of the dirt Sunday?

“A couple, not too many,” Fabregas said.

Lachemann said the next likely step is perhaps to skip Abbott’s next turn in the rotation, which is scheduled to be Friday at Cleveland, the defending American League champions.

“I think you have to give him a breather,” Anderson said. “He’s probably putting too much pressure on himself. He needs to sit back and catch his breath [and miss a start or two]. He needs to get away so he can see what it looks like without saying to himself, ‘God, I’ve got to go out there in another four or five days.’ ”

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Abbott’s lone victory this season was May 2 against the Oakland Athletics, last in the American League West. Only once, in a no-decision against the Indians May 12, did he appear to have a shot to win. The Orioles tormented him for the second time in 11 days.

“There’s an answer in there somewhere,” Abbott said. “I guess the answer is to keep battling, keep working.”

Sunday, he even had the Orioles feeling sorry for him.

A reporter asked Manager Davey Johnson if the Orioles “got what they expected against Abbott.” Johnson bristled.

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“What kind of a question is that?” he said. “That’s a bad question. The guy’s going through a bad time. I’m not going to answer that.”


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