Finley Gives Angels What They Expected
Angel pitcher Chuck Finley doesn’t put much stock in his winning streak, which reached a franchise-record 13 with Friday night’s 5-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 31,516 in Edison Field.
“Whether it’s 10, 11 or 12 in a row or two or three in a row, it doesn’t matter,” said Finley, who pitched a sparkling six-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks to improve to 3-0 with an 0.56 earned-run average this season. “They’re just numbers to me.”
Not to Angel Manager Terry Collins, who sees a greater significance behind Finley’s streak: As long as Finley keeps winning, the Angels can never lose for long.
Finley’s 14th shutout ended the Angels’ two-game losing streak. His last victory, in which the left-hander pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings to beat Cleveland, 12-1, Sunday, put an end to another two-game losing streak.
And though he didn’t get the win, Finley’s nine-inning, one-run, no-decision in a 2-1 victory over Boston on April 6 helped end the Angels’ three-game losing streak.
“He’s our go-to guy,” Collins said. “Any time we need it, he’s the one who steps it up and gets the job done for us.”
Finley, who has not given up a run in 19 innings, usually relies on a crisp fastball and a sharp-breaking forkball, but he hardly overpowered the Devil Rays, soft-serving them with a variety of breaking balls and changeups.
Four of Tampa Bay’s hits came with two out, and only two runners reached second base against Finley, who has a 1.97 ERA during the streak.
The Angels got Finley all the runs he’d need in the first inning when Tim Salmon followed Darin Erstad’s walk with a mammoth, 441-foot homer to left-center field off Devil Ray starter Rick Gorecki.
“For me, when Chuck’s pitching you just get him a lead early, let him relax and get that forkball going,” Salmon said.
A little breathing room never hurts, though, and the Angels provided that with a two-run rally in the seventh, which was sparked by Erstad’s one-out double. Erstad now has at least one extra-base hit in his last eight games.
Dave Hollins then ended a 0-for-13 skid with a liner to left that short-hopped the glove of Jerome Walton. Erstad held up momentarily, but once he saw the ball would drop he bolted for third and was waved home.
Walton made a strong throw to the plate, but it was slightly up the first-base line. Catcher Mike Difelice caught the ball and made a sweeping tag on Erstad, and umpire Rick Reed initially ruled Erstad out.
But the ball squirted out of Difelice’s mitt just after he made the tag, and Reed ruled Erstad safe, based on his belief the catcher didn’t have possession of the ball when he made the tag.
After Salmon flied to left for the second out, Jim Edmonds grounded toward the middle, where second baseman Miguel Cairo made a diving stop in shallow center.
Hollins never slowed around third, and Cairo’s throw to the plate took about three hops before reaching Difelice, giving Hollins enough time to dive in before the tag for a 4-0 lead.
The Angels added their final run in the eighth on consecutive singles by Garret Anderson, Norberto Martin and Gary DiSarcina.
Finley then closed out the Devil Rays with a one-two-three ninth, moving to within four games of the league record for consecutive wins--17--held by Cleveland’s Johnny Allen (1936-37) and Baltimore’s Dave McNally (1968-69).
The major league record is 24, set by Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants in 1936-37.
“Actually, I practically forgot about the streak during the off-season,” Finley said. “I’m more into the team, not the individual stuff. I guess what it means is I get a paycheck and I get to be around for one more day.”
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