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Youthful Angels Help Fans Forget : Opener: Snow, DiSarcina hit home runs during victory over Brewers.

April 07, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was as if an entire winter of discontent had been forgotten Tuesday, the crowd of 29,843 at Anaheim Stadium exonerating the Angels.

At least for a day, the Angels smothered all of the public animosity, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-1, in a virtually flawless opening day performance.

Instead of heading for the parking lot early, the crowd stayed until the last pitch, standing and cheering when Angel starter Mark Langston struck out Robin Yount for the final out of the game.

"It was like for the first time, people were appreciating what we have instead of what we lost," Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. "I don't think anybody was thinking about Jim Abbott or Bryan Harvey at that moment.

"Hey, Harvey and Abbott were two of the best pitchers, and best persons, I've ever been around. But they're gone now. It's just like when Edmonton traded Gretzky. The game goes on, and we'll survive."

The Angels don't have many household names--six players in their opening day lineup had less than 2 1/2 years' experience--but they showed Tuesday that they can win.

Rookie first baseman J.T. Snow, the key player in the Abbott trade, stifled any talk that he would be another Lee Stevens by hitting his first home run during the fourth inning. DiSarcina added a two-run homer during the fifth. Rookie right fielder Tim Salmon and second baseman Damion Easley combined for three hits.

"I'm just glad we had some names on our backs today to show people who we are," DiSarcina said. "It's a sense of everybody against us, and us-against-the-world type of thing. The only way to convince people is to show them that we can play. Besides, we've got to win if we want people to keep coming back. Who wants to root for a losing team?"

Langston, a nine-year veteran, made it all possible. He pitched a three-hitter and became the first Angel since Ken Forsch in 1984 to pitch a complete game on opening day.

Langston struck out the first four he faced, and only five Brewers hit the ball out of the infield during the first six innings. Yet every time the Brewers threatened, there was Langston snagging one-hoppers, picking up grounders and picking off baserunners.

"You saw vintage Mark Langston out there," Manager Buck Rodgers said. "There's no other pitcher in baseball who can make the plays he makes."

The only thing capable of stopping Langston was fatigue. He gave up a two-out homer by Greg Vaughn during the seventh inning, when Langston started to tire.

Langston, who had a 0-4 record and a 6.29 earned-run average in opening day games, opened the ninth by walking Joe Kmak on five pitches, and then fell behind, 2-and-0, to Pat Listach. Right-handed reliever Joe Grahe had been warming up since the seventh inning and was ready, but this was Langston's game to win or lose.

He came back and struck out Listach, got a fly ball to left field from Darryl Hamilton, and was left to face Yount. Yount swung and missed at strike three.

"I don't think I could have thrown another pitch," said Langston, who threw 125. "The last pitch I threw, my hand cramped up pretty good. Really, I couldn't have asked for anything more.

"It was good to just finally play the game, and turn the page on what happened this winter. We lost some important people to this team, but it's done now. We can't bring them back. I think it's time everyone realized that."

Perhaps that is why nothing thrilled the Angels' organization more than the performance of Snow, who was playing under the pressure of being the lone remnant of the Abbott trade.

Snow drove Bill Wegman's fastball into the right-field bullpen during the fourth inning, the ball landing slightly below the luxury box his family and friends were sitting in. Snow had a single to left during the eighth.

"This is a dream come true," said Snow, still clutching the home run ball an hour after the game. "I know there's extra pressure on me because of the trade, and the fact that the two other guys that came over in the trade are in Vancouver.

"I just want to show people what I've got, and then I'll let everybody make their own judgments."

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