The law of averages at last treated an Angel starting pitcher with mercy. That, and the always cooperative Baltimore Orioles.
Not since May 9--14 games ago -- had an Angel starter recorded a victory. In accordance, the Angels slipped easily into the AL West cellar, far out of sight of the division--leading Oakland Athletics.
Then came Chuck Finley and his performance of Friday evening against the hapless Orioles. So impressive as Finley during his 7--inning stay that he now becomes the closest thing there is to an Angel ace.
Now there's a contradiction in terms: an Angel starter and ace. But here was Finley--ignoring a season's worth of hard luck--pitching as if the 4.13 earned--run average and 2--6 record he began the evening with belonged to someone else.
Finley breezed through the first inning. He allowed his only two runs in the second, almost always a troublesome inning for him. In his 10 starts this year, Finley has given up 11 runs in the second inning. No other inning comes close.
The third was easy enough: three up, three down. Followed by a one--hit fourth, one--hit fifth, one--walk sixth and one--hit seventh. Finley disposed of Fred Lynn and Cal Ripken to begin the eighth, but then walked Eddie Murray. Not long afterward, Manager Cookie Rojas was on the mound, replacing Finley, who had thrown 124 pitches, with reliever Bryan Harvey.
"I wanted to stay out there and finish it, but you go as far as you can," Finley said.
Finley didn't even try to dissuade Rohas from making a change. He could tell by Rojas' walk--deliberate--that he was bound for the showers. "He was walking real slow, so I knew it," he said.
Why push a good thing, with Harvey on hand? Using what Rojas calls "that funky move (that's) hard to pick up," Harvey shut down the Orioles and preserved a 4-2 Angel lead.
Later, in the Angel clubhouse, Finley nodded to Harvey. "Thanks, Harvey," he said.
Actually, the Angels might want to do the same with Finley. They owe him that much after scoring an average of fewer than 3 runs in each of his previous 10 starts.
"He's pitched well enough to maybe have a reverse record," Rojas said of Finley's 3--6 mark. "But every time he pitched, we haven't scored enough runs for him."
So Finley ended that ugly little streak of consecutive games without a starter gaining a victory. Better yet, he said, it also ended an even uglier five--game Angel losing streak. "It was nice for the team," he said.
For his efforts, Finley can now claim the lowest ERA among Angel starters--3.92--(some honor) and his first victory of the month. But even with the starting staff's least offensive numbers, Finley said he considers himself nothing more than an apprentice.
"I know where the ace is," he said, referring to Mike Witt (1--6). "I'm still the fifth starter in my mind until I prove myself different."
And Rojas wasn't buying any of this new--ace--of--the--staff stuff, either.
"What's the difference between No. 1 and No. 5?" he said. "are we playing bingo here or the state lottery? To me, they're all starting pitchers."
Friday evening, though, there was a difference. For a change of pace, the Angels won... and all because of a starter.