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Angels Not Lost in West

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Closer Troy Percival stalked around the Angel clubhouse Monday night and Tuesday afternoon like a guy who wanted to put his fist through a wall. For a player who has very little to do with Angel fortunes, he seemed to be taking losing harder than anyone else.

“I’ve held it in this year longer than I have in the past, but it wears on you after a while,” Percival said. “You don’t mind losing as much when you’re playing the game the way it should be played, but there’s no way in the world you can say we did that against Texas last week and Seattle Monday.”

He could say that Wednesday night after the Angels enjoyed one of their most satisfying victories of the season, a 10-3 pounding of the Seattle Mariners before 23,623 at Edison Field.

There was a gutty pitching effort by knuckleballer Steve Sparks, who limited the Mariners to three runs in eight innings despite giving up 12 hits. The Angels were relentless on offense, amassing 16 hits, including nine during a pivotal six-run fifth.

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There was some tremendous defensive plays--second baseman Randy Velarde threw out Raul Ibanez at third from shallow right when Ibanez tried to advance from first on a wild pickoff throw in the second; right fielder Reggie Williams threw out David Bell at third when Bell tried to advance on a deep fly ball in the sixth, and shortstop Gary DiSarcina threw out Butch Huskey from his knees after making a diving back-hand stop of Huskey’s grounder. The Angels also turned three 1-6-3 double plays.

Add it all up and it didn’t vault the Angels into contention in the American League West, but it sure eased the pain of being swept by Texas by a combined score of 32-5 last week and getting shellacked by Seattle, 10-0, Monday night.

With Wednesday night’s victory, the Angels completed what many believed would be a critical 15-game stretch against AL West opponents with a 9-6 record. The Angels began the stretch with a nine-game deficit on June 22. They now trail first-place Texas by 7 1/2 games.

The 15-game stretch did not make the Angels. It did not break them. And it certainly didn’t discourage them.

“You look at the way our division always goes,” said Percival, the only Angel named to the AL All-Star team Wednesday. “Oakland plays Texas well, we either pound the Rangers or they pound us. All we have to do is have a winning record in our own division and beat the other teams we’re supposed to beat, but that’s what we haven’t done.”

They beat up the Mariners Wednesday night. Like Tuesday, when the Angels ended a 2-2 tie with a six-run eighth, the Angels broke open Wednesday’s game with a huge inning, battering starter Jamie Moyer and reliever Ken Cloude in the fifth to turn a 4-3 score into a 10-3 rout.

Mo Vaughn, whose homer off the right-field foul pole in the first was his first extra-base hit since June 24, singled to open the inning and Garret Anderson reached on an infield single.

Troy Glaus, after falling behind, 0-2, doubled down the left-field line for a run, and Tim Unroe, recalled from triple-A Edmonton Tuesday night, singled to left for another run before getting thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw to the plate.

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Steve Decker flied to center, but the Angels put together a string of five consecutive two-out hits, Williams’ RBI double, DiSarcina’s RBI single, Darin Erstad’s RBI single, Velarde’s single and Vaughn’s RBI double.

The Angels needed all the offense they could muster to offset red-hot Mariner shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who was steamed before Wednesday night’s game because he was snubbed by AL All-Star Manager Joe Torre despite hitting .322 with 17 homers and 47 RBIs through Tuesday.

“It’s disappointing,” Rodriguez said, “but maybe it will give me motivation to prove to guys like Joe Torre that I can play.”

He has nothing to prove to Angel Manager Terry Collins. In three games in Anaheim this week, Rodriguez went nine for 13 with four homers, two doubles and five RBIs, including a towering drive that cleared the fence in center field in the second inning Wednesday.

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Butch Huskey followed with another homer off Sparks to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead, but the Angels countered with three in the bottom of the second.


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