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Angels Just Manage to Defeat Arizona

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels didn’t make things any easier for exiled Manager Terry Collins on Tuesday night.

Their interleague game against the Arizona Diamondbacks included seven pitching changes, two National League-style double switches, three lead changes and enough decisions to make a manager’s head spin.

Collins must have been a nervous wreck back in his hotel room, where he was serving the first game of an eight-game suspension, but by the end of the evening, his grief had turned to relief as the Angels pulled out a 10-8 victory.

Cecil Fielder hit a grand slam in the third inning and a two-run single in the eighth, and Darin Erstad had a career-high five hits to lead the Angels before 43,074 in Bank One Ballpark, extending their win streak to nine.

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The Angels had 16 hits, including three by Norberto Martin, but strong relief efforts by Rich DeLucia and Troy Percival played just as big a role in the victory.

The Diamondbacks had trimmed an 8-6 Angel lead to 8-7 in the sixth when Tony Batista singled off reliever Pep Harris, and Dave Dellucci and Matt Williams walked with two out.

The Angels summoned struggling left-hander Mike Holtz to face the left-handed hitting Travis Lee, who stroked an RBI single to left that scored one run. DeLucia came on to retire Jay Bell on a fly to deep right to end the sixth, and the right-hander retired the side in order in the seventh.

Fielder’s bases-loaded single gave the Angels two insurance runs in the top of the eighth and gave Fielder six RBIs on the night, one short of his career high.

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Left-hander Greg Cadaret gave up a run in the bottom of the eighth, but Percival slammed the door in the ninth, striking out two of three for his 18th save to end the Angels’ 14th come-from-behind win of the season.

A 6-4 Arizona lead after four innings evaporated when the Angels scored once in the fifth on Garret Anderson’s RBI single and three times during a sixth-inning rally that included only two hits.

Martin, filling in for injured second baseman Justin Baughman, walked off starter Willie Blair, and Gary DiSarcina walked off reliever Clint Sodowsky.

Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro fouled off a bunt attempt for strike two before hitting a shot back to the mound that caromed off Sodowsky’s mid-section.

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Sodowsky retrieved the carom and threw wildly to first, allowing Martin to score the tying run and DiSarcina and Palmeiro to take third and second. Erstad lined an RBI single to center, and Dave Hollins bounced into a double play, Palmeiro scoring to give the Angels an 8-6 lead.

Angel starter Chuck Finley had eight strikeouts through three innings, but overpowering, he was not. Rare control problems by the left-hander led to five walks in those three innings, three of which preceded Yamil Benitez’s first grand slam in the third.

Benitez had doubled and scored on Batista’s two-run homer in the second, but the Angels countered in the top of the third with Erstad’s double, Hollins’ walk, Arizona first baseman Lee’s error on Jim Edmonds’ grounder and Fielder’s 11th grand slam, a bomb to center off Blair that gave the Angels a 4-2 lead.

Finley (7-2) struck out Dellucci to start the bottom of the third before suddenly losing his grip on the strike zone. His fastballs began climbing from opposing batters’ knees and thighs to their chests and shoulders, and Williams, Lee and Bell walked to load the bases.

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Benitez, a platoon player who entered with a .200 average, then blasted a full-count fastball just beyond the swimming pool in right-center field, giving the Diamondbacks a 6-4 lead.

It marked only the sixth time in major league history that teams have hit grand slams in the top and bottom of an inning, the last time coming when Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs and Jeff King of the Pirates accomplished the feat on Sept. 9, 1992.

Finley was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the sixth with a line that was hardly worthy of victory: five innings, five hits, six earned runs, five walks, eight strikeouts, and two home runs, only one fewer than he had given up in 94 1/3 innings of his 13 previous starts.

But a victory Finley received, improving to 7-2.

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