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Abbott Finally Gets Breaks, Wins Fourth in Row

May 22, 1991|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — One ball ended up in Dave Gallagher's glove, which was sliding on the grass as the center fielder scrambled in for a shallow ball.

"The ball was caught," said Angel Manager Doug Rader, who ran to shallow center field to argue Jim Evans' call of no-catch. The call allowed the Chicago White Sox to score their first run.

Another ball shot down the left-field line for a run-scoring double off the bat of Carlton Fisk.

They both could have cost Jim Abbott, who doesn't seem to be able to shake the reputation of a hard-luck pitcher--a guy who loses by a run, or is victimized by fluke hits.

Save the sympathy, though, because Abbott won Tuesday, going eight innings in the Angels' 4-2 victory at Anaheim Stadium.

Abbott allowed eight hits, and two runs, but the Angels trailed by a run until Dave Parker--yes, Dave Parker, who hadn't homered since Opening Night--hit a three-run homer in the eighth that made Abbott a winner.

"It was awesome," Abbott said. "I don't know any other word for it. It was great for me, I won't deny that I was awful happy to see it go out."

For Abbott, once 0-4, it made the difference in winning his fourth game in a row. He also lowered his earned-run average to 3.69.

"There's a big difference between 3-5 and 4-4. It's just a big, big lift for us," Abbott said. "It's early in the year for milestones, but nobody likes to look in the paper and see themselves below .500. I'd really like to be over .500."

Rader appreciates the milestone, too.

"Lord knows we're all very, very happy for him," Rader said. "His ERA is starting to reflect what he's doing, and he's back to .500."

It might have been different.

"He should have been out there pitching the ninth because he should have been pitching a shutout," Rader said. "Unfortunately a couple of runs were charged against him."

Rader sees the evolution of a pitcher in Abbott, from the thrower of his first season to the second-year pitcher working with his off-speed pitches, to the pitcher of this season.

"Now he can be the pitcher we knew he could be," Rader said.

That two-run third inning could have spelled doom.

"You stop and think about that inning, the disappointment of that ball down the line," Rader said. "He went from an inning he could have breezed through with no runs scoring to one where he had to work not to give up four or five."

But Abbott made it.

"That's the difference in Jim Abbott," Rader said. "Jimmy has been pitching great."

It is some change from late April, when Abbott was 0-4 with an ERA of 6.00.

Now, when they talk about the possibility of Fernando Valenzuela making it back to the major leagues with the Angels, they talk about what it could do to the rotation.

Four left-handers, they say.

Those aren't bad words for left-hander Abbott to hear.

Back when Abbott was 0-4, it briefly became the vogue theory in some circles--none of them Angels' circles--that Abbott should be sent to the minors.

That made Abbott's supporters bristle--which means just about everybody. Few players inspire devotion like Abbott.

Now that the Angel pitcher has turned his season around, he occasionally taunts his old persecutors, with a smile.

"So, now you guys don't think I should go to the minors, do you?" he said.

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