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As Angels Go, so Goes the Faith : Baseball: They drop fifth in a row, losing to Red Sox, 4-1, leaving some to wonder about their future with team.

July 22, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOSTON — Angel starter Chuck Finley sat slumped in a chair in the middle of the clubhouse Wednesday, staring ahead, wondering how much longer he will be with the team.

Manager Buck Rodgers was in his office contemplating how to revamp a lineup that is slumping, pondering whether it might be best to send rookie first baseman J.T. Snow to the minors.

Outfielder Luis Polonia hurriedly dressed at his locker, questioning aloud whether his teammates have become intimidated, or in his words, are just plain choking.

It has been a week since the Angels opened the second half of the season filled with grand illusions of a division race, but after their 4-1 defeat to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, they appear resigned to being bystanders.

"We don't even look like the same team anymore," said Finley (11-7) who gave up nine hits and four runs in seven innings. "We just died out there today. You know, we looked like we expected to get beat.

"I wonder if there's any way we can jump over to the other league and hit a couple of the expansion teams real quick.

"Of course, I'm sure a couple of teams would like to play us right now. And the line to play us might be twice as long as Florida or Colorado."

The Angels (44-49) have lost five consecutive games, dropping to five games below .500 for the first time this season. Instead of acquiring players for the stretch drive, Angel players are fearful of being let go to enhance other teams' hopes.

"I hear people say the closer we are to falling out of contention," Finley said, "the closer my suitcase is to the door."

Finley talked as if he were relishing his last few days with the Angels, knowing that the July 31 trading deadline without clearing waivers looms ahead. Yet, Rodgers dispelled the rumors and speculation, saying that despite Finley's $5-million salary, he is staying put.

"You can't have a whole team full of young people," Rodgers said. "There has to be a blend, and Finley is one of the anchors on this team. We'd explore every other avenue before we'd resort to something like that.

"We can saw off enough money from the (payroll) without having to trade Finley."

The Angels, who lost all six games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the first time in club history, instead may be left making a choice between keeping Chili Davis or Polonia.

"I think that's why guys are starting to press so much," Polonia said. "They're worrying about what's going to happen. It's really a bad situation for us right now. It's sad to see everybody falling apart."

The Angels, who lost to three consecutive rookies this trip, never had a chance against three-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens (9-6) after the first inning. The Angels got three hits, stole two bases and scored one run in the first but got only three hits the next eight innings.

"I know it was Clemens," Polonia said, "but he wasn't throwing as hard as he usually does. He just used his name. We heard the name Roger Clemens, and we were intimidated."

Rodgers, watching his team average only two runs a game this trip, promised sweeping changes in the lineup beginning tonight. Damion Easley will be moved to second or third in the order, Chad Curtis will be dumped from his second spot, and Snow soon might be dropped lower in the lineup, benched, or even sent to triple-A Vancouver.

"I think the biggest question now is how do we salvage the rest of '93 to get J.T. Snow going again, so that he's in our plans in '94," Rodgers said. "That's what we've got to talk about when we get back to Anaheim.

"Do we keep sending him out there every day to take his licks, do we sit him on the bench for a week, or do we get more drastic than that?"

Snow, who's batting only .187 since the first 15 games of the season, has hit the ball out of the infield only once in the Angels' last five games.

"J.T. has been just about nonexistent," Rodgers said. "But do you know the worst thing about this? You can go up and down this lineup and say the same damn thing.

"That's what really hurts."

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