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Angels' Fantasy Lives On : Baseball: Snow hits two more home runs, Finley pitches two-hitter and team completes sweep of Indians, 8-0.


The Angels eyed one another Thursday night with an incredulous look on their faces, as if at any moment they were going to break out laughing.

Come on, this can't be real, can it?

Can it possibly be this easy?

Is this why rookie J.T. Snow was actually giggling when he stepped across home plate after his second homer of the night in the seventh inning?

Continuing their wondrous journey into this Fantasyland, the Angels walloped the Cleveland Indians, 8-0, in front of 17,437 at Anaheim Stadium.

The Angels (9-4), hitting three home runs and producing six extra-base hits, haven't been off to a start like this since 1982. They are five games over .500 for the first time since July 30, 1991, and not since the first three days of the 1991 season have they spent consecutive days in first place.

Angel Manager Buck Rodgers, ridiculed in the off-season when he guaranteed his team would at least be competitive this season, found himself fending off questions how long this possibly can last.

"I don't think we're going to be intimidated by anything or anybody," Rodgers said. "Everybody in that clubhouse believes we can play with everybody. They've got that look in their eye. They're tough.

"The only thing that will bother them is if they think too much. The dumber you are, the better you'll hit. I never saw a team win with nine Phi Beta Kappas."

Who could have thought there would be a day this season when Angel starter Chuck Finley would pitch a two-hit shutout, and it would be overshadowed by the offense?

Then again, who in their craziest dreams would believe that Snow would be tearing apart the American League as if he were back in the International League?

Said Finley (2-0), who struck out 10 batters: "To tell you the truth, it's been more fun watching these guys than playing," he said.

"I feel like I should be paying for my seat on the bench just to watch J.T. hit myself."

Snow, who homered off Mark Clark in the fourth inning and Mike Christopher in the seventh, became the first Angel since Dave Winfield in 1991 to hit home runs in three consecutive games.

The last rookie to perform the feat was Wally Joyner in the infant stages of Wally World back on May 11-13, 1986, when he also hit four homers in three games.

"I can't explain it, I really can't," said Snow, who raised his average to .383 with six homers and 17 runs batted in. "I mean, I've never done anything like this in my life. I remember once at Class-A (Prince Williams) when I had two hits or more in 10 games, but that's the hottest I've ever been."

Said teammate Torey Lovullo, Snow's best friend who played with him at triple-A Columbus last season: "I've seen him catch fire and carry the team before, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine he'd catch fire this quick.

"I mean, you're not supposed to be able to do this.

"This is the big leagues."

Snow, the key player acquired in the Jim Abbott trade, realizes more than anyone this shouldn't be happening so easily. Last season was the first time he hit higher than .300 in his four-year professional career, and never has he hit more than 15 homers and driven in more than 78 runs.

"It's weird, when I get into the box," Snow said, "I don't hear the crowd, I don't think of stats, I just look for my pitch and try to drive the ball.

"I know it sounds simple, but that's the truth."

The ease of Snow's success has overwhelmed even his own teammates. Cleanup hitter Chili Davis and Snow were standing together in the on-deck circle watching Christopher throw his warm-up pitches when Davis told him, "Hey, it's a new pitcher, let's go get him."

Snow hit the first pitch he ever saw from Christopher over the right-field fence, and when he came across home plate, he looked at Davis and broke out laughing.

"I couldn't help but laugh when I went by him," Snow said. "He's been saying that since I've been so hot, the pitchers are bearing down on him and he's been getting some nasty pitches to look at.

"I tried to bite my lip, anything to keep from grinning, but I couldn't."

Even the Indians, who were swept in the three-game series, left town in awe at Snow's performance. While Cleveland's powerful duo of Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle went three for 26 in the series (.115) with only one RBI, Snow batted .500 with four home runs and eight RBIs.

"I couldn't believe the guy," Cleveland catcher Junior Ortiz said. "I've hit five homers in my career, and I haven't seen any of those guys since."

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