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Langston Spoils Homecoming

April 29, 1993|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Whose night was this anyway?

When Jim Abbott trotted out of the visitors' bullpen a few minutes past 7 p.m. Wednesday night, the Anaheim Stadium crowd of 33,070 welcomed him back with a lengthy standing ovation.

Mark Langston then blew away the New York Yankees for seven no-hit innings and won back the fans' support.

Sure, this was Abbott's long-awaited homecoming, but Langston had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning and sentimentality only goes so far. A no-hit bid was about the only way Abbott's return could be upstaged.

When Yankee left fielder Randy Velarde singled to center to lead off the eighth, Langston's no-hitter was history. His hopes for a shutout disappeared on Danny Tartabull's two-run double in the ninth, which pulled the Yankees even, 2-2, and added further drama to Wednesday's game.

In the end, the Angels needed a leadoff home run by Tim Salmon in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a 3-2 victory and make Langston (3-0) a winner over his good friend.

"I feel bad for Jim, but I'll take it," Langston said after his three-hit, 13 strikeout performance.

"The fans were really behind both of us tonight. The crowd was really into it. I got goose bumps when he came to the mound.

"It was all business when we were out there. He pitched his butt off. (But) we never gave up. We kept fighting and scratching."

This was the second time in six days that Langston had taken a one-hitter into the ninth inning, only to falter and lose a shutout. Last Friday, he outpitched Boston's Frank Viola in a 4-1, three-hit victory. But there was no comparison between the two starts.

"It's not going to be just another game," Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said before the game. "I'd be very surprised if anybody out there (in the clubhouse) considered it just another game. We'll play 162 games and we might not have another game as emotional as this one."

Langston set the tone for the evening by striking out the side in the first inning. Bernie Williams, Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly seemed overmatched.

He was perfect until walking Williams to lead off the fourth. He gave up another walk to Velarde in the fifth, then struck out the side in the sixth. Boggs, Mattingly and Tartabull went quietly in the seventh and the crowd began to realize a no-hitter was possible.

Langston went to the bench, draped a towel over his head and tried to drive thoughts of a no-hitter from his mind.

"It was flying into my mind all the time," Langston said. "I was praying it would get out of my mind. I prayed between innings, 'If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.' "

In the eighth, Velarde settled matters with a high chopper over Langston's head that second baseman Damion Easley couldn't reach. And even if Easley had been able to track it down it was doubtful he would have had a play at first.

In the ninth, Langston almost let the game get away.

With one out, he walked Williams then gave up a single to Boggs. He struck out Mattingly, which brought Rodgers out of the dugout. Tartabull, the next batter, went into the game with a career .360 average with two home runs against Langston.

"I really felt like I could finish it off in the ninth," Langston said.

But Tartabull then blasted a 3-and-2 breaking ball into the corner, scoring Williams and pinch-runner Pat Kelly.

"I wasn't going to give in to him at all," Langston said. "With a 3-and-2 count, I felt it was a good time to throw a breaking ball."

After Velarde reached on an error, Langston got Spike Owen to fly out to end the inning, setting up Salmon's game-winning home run.

"(Losing) would have been tough," Langston said. "We felt we had the game won. It's a huge victory."

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