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Victories Keep Piling Up for Finley and Angels, 3-1

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chuck Finley kept rolling, Cecil Fielder picked up speed and Dave Hollins, at last, may have his feet on the ground. Such a harmonic convergence could only produce good things for the Angels on Monday.

For Finley, it was his 14th consecutive victory, as he went eight innings in a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in front of 42,961 at Camden Yards. More important to Finley, though, was the Angels fifth consecutive victory, putting them three games over .500 for the first time.

For Fielder, it was another day looking like that guy pitchers feared, rather than that double play waiting to happen. He had two hits and two runs batted in, staking the Angels to an early 2-0 lead.

For Hollins, the temperamental third baseman, it was a two-hit game that seemed to shake loose a few more cobwebs. He drove in a run and scored a run.

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Offense enough for Finley (4-0), even with his erratic performance. He walked six--five in the first three innings--but struck out nine and lowered his ERA to 1.54.

“I was gripping the ball too tight early in the game,” Finley said. “It happens on cold nights. I had to loosen up on it.”

When he did, he took hold of the Orioles.

“I didn’t think he was real sharp when the game started, but he didn’t get carried away,” Manager Terry Collins said. “He just tried to slow himself down and make some pitches.”

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The biggest was to Joe Carter in the seventh, when the Orioles had two on with two out. Finley fired a 3-and-2 splitter by him to preserve a 3-1 lead.

“It was a terrible pitch,” Finley said. “‘It was high. I think Joe was surprised I left it up there.”

But it was Finley’s pitch.

“When guys get hurt it’s when they say, ‘OK, I’m going to go at this guy,’ ” Collins said.

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“Joe Carter has made a career out of guys challenging him.

“A great career.”

Roberto Alomar was the only one who hurt Finley, as he homered in the third--the only Oriole hit through five innings. Finley, though, got some help.

Carter unloaded on a pitch with one on in the fifth, sending left fielder Garret Anderson to the warning track to make the catch.

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“The wind knocked some balls down tonight,” Finley said. “Usually with a ball hit like that, in this park, you’re rubbing up a new baseball.”

Closer Troy Percival had that same feeling in the ninth, as Jeffrey Hammonds launched one of his pitches. Center fielder Jim Edmonds make the catch at the fence. Percival then got Alomar to hit back to the mound for the third out.

It was Percival’s sixth save and moved Finley within three games of the league record for consecutive victories held by former Oriole Dave McNally (1968-69) and Cleveland’s Johnny Allen (1936-37).

“Bring me a bible and I’ll swear that I don’t even think about the streak,” Finley said. “I didn’t remember it today. I go out and try to eat up innings. If I eat up enough of them, that means we’re in the ball game and we have a chance to win.”

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Hollins and Fielder made that a reality.

Hollins was hitting .197 overall and .136 with runners in scoring position entering the game. He had a fourth-inning single to score Gary DiSarcina for a 3-1 lead.

“Dave’s a bull,” Collins said. ‘He plays angry. Right now, he’s really angry.

“We start getting Dave Hollins swinging like he’s capable of, he’s going to score some runs. When he gets on, he scores.”

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That’s exactly what happened in the first, as Hollins doubled and scored on Fielder’s two-out single. Fielder struck again in the third, with a double to score Jim Edmonds for a 2-0 lead.

It gave Fielder seven RBIs in the last six games. He has had two hits in each of the last three games, after suffering through a five for 54 stretch at one point.

“I had been blocking myself off,” Fielder said.

“Everything was a muscle swing. I didn’t allow myself to get around on the ball. [Batting coach] Rod Carew kept telling me I was doing it, but I couldn’t hear him.

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“I had to see it on video. Now I have to put that in the memoirs.”


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