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Downing Gives Angels a Lift With Home Run, but It Only Delays Defeat

June 22, 1989|By MIKE REILLEY | Times Staff Writer

When Ernie Banks used to say "let's play two," he didn't mean all at once.

The Angels and Toronto nearly took the former Chicago Cubs star literally Wednesday night at Anaheim Stadium. The Blue Jays finally ended the 3-hour, 56- minute game in the 14th inning with a five-run outburst to win, 6-1.

And all this happened because Brian Downing smashed his sixth home run of the season over the right-field fence off Toronto reliever Dave Wells in the ninth to tie the score, 1-1.

Downing said his homer "wasn't a total loss."

"We were looking at a shutout," he said. "A lot of people are down on our offense and a shutout would have them barking even louder. It put us in a position to win it. I would rather have a second life than none at all."

It was Downing's 226th career homer, but only his fourth to right field. The last pitch he hit over a right-field wall was thrown by Tommy John on May 14, 1988, in Yankee Stadium.

But his heroics weren't enough for the Angels to avoid a three-game sweep against the Blue Jays.

Angel Manager Doug Rader said several key plays--Downing's homer, Devon White's catch that robbed Tony Fernandez of a home run and the four-hit pitching of starter Bert Blyleven--were overshadowed by Toronto's comeback.

"Bert deserved to win and didn't," Rader said. "We had a lot of fine efforts go virtually unnoticed because we couldn't get a run."

Toronto cruised through the middle and late innings on the four-hit pitching of Mike Flanagan, who was replaced by Wells at the start of the ninth inning. Flanagan struck out two, walked one and appeared headed for his fifth victory of the year before being lifted.

The Blue Jays grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Tony Fernandez singled, moved to third on a double by Kelly Gruber and scored on George Bell's sacrifice fly.

Bert Blyleven held the Blue Jays scoreless for the next five innings before being replaced by Bryan Harvey in the 10th.

Entering Wednesday's game, the Angel pitching staff's earned-run average had risen above the 3.0 mark (3.01) for the first time since April 25.

Catcher Lance Parrish said he's more concerned with the Angels' offense--or lack of it--than the pitching. They're hitting only .228 for the month.

"Everyone seems a little impatient at the plate," he said. "We can't get anyone on and we can't get a rally going. It's like everyone is trying to do a little too much right now."

So what will it take for the Angels to turn it around?

Parrish thinks the answer will come on Thursday, when the Angels meet AL East leader Baltimore in the first of four games.

"I wish I knew what we needed," Parrish said. "Baltimore's playing great, and maybe this is the kind of challenge we need right now."

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