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Angels' Hit Parade Continues in 12-2 Win

April 15, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MILWAUKEE — The stranger rushed toward Angel Manager Buck Rodgers in the clubhouse Wednesday night, jabbed a microphone in his face and breathlessly asked:

"Buck, are you guys thinking pennant now?"

Rodgers looked at him in disbelief, managed a smile and said: "No, we're not thinking about a pennant . . . not quite yet. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I think it might be a little early."

The Angels, rolling past the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-2, before a crowd of 7,948 at Milwaukee County Stadium, indeed have invoked wild fantasies the first week of the baseball season.

Then again, when a team produces 31 runs and 41 hits the last three games . . . is hitting .312 for the season . . . has equaled the best start in franchise history with a 5-2 record . . . and is in second place for the first time since July 18, 1991 . . . who can blame Angel fans for dreaming?

"It's crazy what's going on," said designated hitter Chili Davis, who has been around too long to take all this seriously. "We're not going to pay attention to the hype. Really, it's kind of ludicrous when you look at it.

"The way I figure it, we didn't pay attention to all the negative stuff being written about us all winter, so we're not about to fall in that trap now."

Third baseman Rene Gonzales looked over Davis' shoulder, poked his head into the conversation, and said:

"But Chili, who expected this?"

The Angels, who posted their fourth comeback victory of the season--overcoming a 2-1 lead by scoring 11 runs in the last two innings--are baffling the league with their balance.

"I think everybody's hallucinating with the amount of runs we're getting right now," Rodgers said. "I know I've been surprised, but the most impressive thing has been our ability to come back.

"Some teams will panic when they get down, because they're afraid to lose. You can't play scared."

Said rookie right fielder Tim Salmon, who hit a three-run homer in the Angels' six-run ninth: "When you think about it, there's no pressure on us to win, because all of the expectations were that we'd finish last. So really, it's pretty easy."

Starter Scott Sanderson (1-0) made it possible for the Angels' comeback by keeping the Brewers in check through seven innings, limiting them to four hits and two runs in the first seven innings. And when it came down to a battle of the bullpens in the eighth, it was no contest.

The Brewers, who went through four relievers after pulling starter Jamie Navarro after seven innings, surrendered 11 hits and 11 runs the final two innings. The Brewer bullpen has yielded 17 runs in the last three innings to the Angels, with their collective earned-run average soaring to 11.57.

The Angel bullpen, which had the entire organization in a complete panic during the spring, again was flawless. Steve Frey and Joe Grahe pitched two scoreless innings, lowering the bullpen ERA to 1.71.

Rodgers believes that subconsciously, at least, his team might be playing good baseball simply because of its confidence in the bullpen. The bullpen has been fortified by the addition of Julio Valera, who Rodgers said could remain a reliever the entire season.

"To me, this makes us stronger," Rodgers said. "It gives us two closers rather than a setup guy and a closer. The (bullpen) situation from spring training to now is a complete reversal, and a lot of that has been because of Julio."

Of course, considering the Angels' offense of late, who needs to worry about a bullpen?

The Angels had five extra-base hits among their season-high 16 hits Wednesday, featuring: three hits by John Orton, including a home run and double; three hits by second baseman Torey Lovullo, who was making his first appearance of the season; Davis' three RBIs, which give him seven in the last four games, and Salmon's three-run homer.

"I was so excited when I hit it," Salmon said. "I ran past the first-base bag watching to see if it was fair. I actually had to come back and touch it. (First baseman) Robin Yount looked at me, 'Like, where are you going.' "

Perhaps at this juncture, people are starting to wonder the same about the Angels.

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