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Finley Puts His Pitches Where the Money Is

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their ace took them as far as he could. Their bullpen extended itself again. What was missing, and what has been missing for the Angels, was a little offense.

Matt Walbeck finally provided a smidgen. His lazy fly ball down the left field line in the 11th inning gave the Angels a 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday in front of 21,352 at Edison International Field.

It also prevented the Angels from wasting a brilliant tag-team pitching performance.

Chuck Finley went nine strong innings. He outpitched and outlasted baseball’s hottest property, Pedro Martinez. Troy Percival and Mike Holtz followed with shutout innings.

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Walbeck finally took the pressure off. Garret Anderson walked with one out, then went to third on Carlos Garcia’s single to right. Walbeck’s fly ball landed five feet fair for a single and left fielder Troy O’Leary, playing shallow with one out, never had a chance.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

“We’re just not hitting right now,” said Manager Terry Collins, whose team was outscored, 23-6, in losing three games to Cleveland over the weekend.

Finley mixed his pitches, overwhelmed batters and was in control from start to finish. All Finley had to show for it was a no decision. Percival and Holtz, who got the victory, followed.

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Martinez came in as the hot property, with a six-year, $75-million contract. But Finley topped him throughout. Martinez went eight innings. Finley went nine. Martinez gave up seven hits. Finley gave up four. Martinez struck out nine. Finley struck out 10.

“That’s what an ace does, he stops losing streaks,” Collins said. “When Chuck is making his pitches, you’ve got a chance.”

Collins tried to improve those odds. He moved Dave Hollins to the second spot in the order and dropped Jim Edmonds to fourth.

“Having Hollins hit second was something I though about doing this spring,” Collins said. “You look at his career and he scores runs. Jim had lost some of his aggressiveness batting second. I think he thought he had to take more pitches.”

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It worked in the first. Hollins doubled to right with one out. After Tim Salmon struck out, Edmonds looped a single to left, scoring Hollins.

That lead held up through five innings, as Finley was at his best.

He blew through the first inning, getting 1997 rookie of the year Nomar Garciaparra to pop up and striking out John Valentin and Mo Vaughn. He didn’t allow a hit until Jim Leyritz rolled a single into right field with two out in the fourth.

After the first, Martinez got on a roll. He mixed his fastball with a good changeup. He struck out nine, including four consecutive in the second and third. He struck out Salmon three times.

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The Angels loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Martinez wriggled out of it in impressive fashion. He got Edmonds to foul out, then struck out Cecil Fielder.

“The first time you face him, you see this 6-foot, 160-pound guy, Collins said. “Then he throws that 96-mile-per-hour fastball and you ask, ‘Where the hell did that come from?’

“He has such command of all his pitches, that’s what is impressive. When he makes a mistake, you better hit it. If you miss, he’s going to get you out.”

Martinez didn’t make many gaffes. Then again, neither did Finley. He struck out three in the sixth, but the Red Sox parlayed two singles and an error into a run to tie the score, 1-1.

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Darren Lewis led off with a single to right and, one out later, attempted to steal second. Catcher Matt Walbeck’s throw skipped in front of second baseman Craig Shipley, allowing Lewis to take third. After Valentin stuck out, Vaughn fought off a 2-and-1 forkball, muscling it into left field for a single to score Lewis.


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