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Angels Find Moore to Be a Real Plus

April 18, 1985|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — The Metrodome may not be the same home run haven that Atlanta Stadium is, but it is known to have prepared pitchers for a retirement haven.

Donnie Moore allowed the remarkably low number of three home runs in Atlanta last year when he led the Braves with 16 saves. He made his initial visit to the Metrodome mound Wednesday night, then said:

"It may not jump out of here like it does in Atlanta, but it's still a hitters' park. You also have to be lucky because you never know how the ball is going to bounce (off the synthetic surface).

"I mean, it's a tough place to pitch because it makes you want to make the perfect pitch and there's no way to do that.

"I caught myself aiming the ball a couple times tonight and had to keep reminding myself, 'forget it, just be yourself."'

Moore was proving again that being himself is good enough.

He allowed one hit in three shutout innings, gaining his first American League save as he preserved the Angels' 4-3 victory over the Twins, who have lost six straight since opening the 1985 season with two straight wins at Anaheim.

The Angels have won consecutive games for the first time since they won the last two games of 1984. They have moved back to .500 for the first time since losing those two Anaheim games to Minnesota.

Jim Slaton, in his second start as Ken Forsch's replacement, pitched into the seventh inning again, leaving with a one-run lead and a two-ball count on Gary Gaetti, the leadoff hitter in the seventh.

Moore struck out Gaetti, yielded a two-out single to Greg Gagne, then retired the last seven Twins in order. He has made three scoreless appearances since his disappointing debut in Game 2 of the new season.

Wednesday night, he preserved more than a win.

There seems to be a mounting belief that the 31-year-old right-hander's 1984 credentials are legitimate. The Angels need to believe and want to believe that he can be the late-inning stopper they so desperately need.

"Mental attitude is the whole thing with a talented club like this one," Reggie Jackson said. "Injuries and believability are the keys for us.

"It's too early even to be early, but a couple more times and we'll have that believability in Donnie. I mean, if he's the difference in 10 games for a club that was .500 last year, you're talking 91 wins. You're talking significant."

Manager Gene Mauch already believes. Asked what kind of confidence he has in Moore, Mauch said:

"Unlimited. You know how I am. I get a hot horse and I ride it.

"Donnie Moore may get whacked once or twice before the season is over, but he's a gamer. Joe Torre (the former Atlanta manager who now does TV work with the Angels) told me as much before we got him."

Moore spent eight big league seasons looking for the role, the success he enjoyed in '84. The experience taught him that predictions are out of order. He knows he can't carry the whole load.

"I think I can do the job if I stay within myself," he said, "but I don't know if I can do it every time. I don't know if I can have a Willie Hernandez year, but who the hell can?

"You guys (the media) have been writing about how many runs the bullpen has given up in the eighth or ninth innings, but it's still early. If it's the same at the All-Star break, that's different. Just give us a chance to get our stuff together.

"We've got two or three guys who can do the job, but Luis (Sanchez) has been pitching with a sore neck and Doug (Corbett) has had the bad knee. Give us time to straighten out."

Slaton had scattered six hits, four coming in the third when the Twins scored twice but left runners at second and third as Slaton struck out Roy Smalley and got Tom Brunansky on a fly to center. Smalley homered in the sixth, but the run that proved decisive scored in the fifth when Rod Carew tripled and Doug DeCinces hit a sacrifice fly.

The Angels had scored three runs in the second, two on a Gary Pettis single. It might have been a scoreless inning but shortstop Gagne, wearing spikes designed for dirt, tripped moving after a Mike Brown grounder that would have been a double play but went for a single.

Said Mauch: "You put the ball in play on AstroTurf and good things can happen. The shortstop doesn't trip on a strike out."

The reference was to the fact that right-hander John Butcher had struck out nine Angels in a seven-inning stint at Anaheim, getting left-handed hitters Jackson and Ruppert Jones three times each. Neither was in the lineup Wednesday night as Butcher struck out only three and scattered eight hits.

"He's got a damn fine changeup," Mauch said, "and he got seven of those nine strike outs in Anaheim forcing left-handed hitters to swing at ball four in the dirt. You can't win on AstroTurf striking out. You have to make contact."

Now back at .500, Mauch alluded to a recent conversation with coach Bobby Knoop and said:

"Bobby and I were talking about the trouble this team had getting over the hump last year. We're not over the hump yet, but we're to it. Now let's get hot."

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