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Angels Hang On for Langston, 2-1


BALTIMORE — Angel Manager Buck Rodgers was well aware of the repercussions. He knew the moment the words tumbled out of his mouth Wednesday night, there would be groans of disbelief.

Why, Rodgers not only was taking away the opportunity of a milepost in the Angels' record book by removing starter Mark Langston with a one-hitter after eight innings, but he was setting himself up to be second-guessed on every radio talk show from Baltimore to Baja.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Rodgers said. "It's tough to take a guy out when he's got a one-hitter going and just pitched a strong eighth inning. But if I left him out there, and I was wrong, I couldn't have looked myself in the mirror."

Rodgers was able to look himself in the mirror after all, as the Angels hung on for a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

The game ended with Angel reliever Mike Butcher striking out David Segui with runners on first and third, completing the Angels' second consecutive two-hitter against the Orioles. It was the first time the Orioles have been limited to only four hits in consecutive games since June 20-21, 1977, against Boston.

It would have been easy, of course, if Rodgers had taken the conventional approach and allowed Langston to live or die in the ninth. After all, no Angel has thrown a one-hitter since Chuck Finley in 1989, and it had been 12 years since the Angels even had a complete game against the Orioles.

Yet, Rodgers realized that if he allowed Langston to remain in the game, he might have looked quite hypocritical to his own players.

Rodgers had a closed-door team meeting before the game, stressing to the players not to quit. Sure, they're only 57-68, but Rodgers told them it's senseless to junk the final five weeks.

"I said, 'Look, for all intents and purposes we're out of the race,' " Rodgers said. " 'Stay focused, and don't let it get you down.' "

Rodgers also vowed that he'd do his part and not concede any games, either. In fact, he told Langston and Finley that he'll pitch them on three day's rest for the first time this season because of Friday's doubleheader. It is why Langston--who struck out nine and gave up one unearned run--was told he was finished after 115 pitches.

"Sure, I would have loved to finish," said Langston, whose only one-hitter was in 1988 with the Seattle Mariners, "but I think it's more important that I stay fresh for Sunday. This is a team game."

Langston didn't give up his first hit until Cal Ripken's leadoff single in the seventh.

"I didn't even think about it," said Langston, who had a no-hitter through seven innings April 28 against the New York Yankees. "Once you get to the eighth or ninth, that's when it really hits you. But once they got the hit, it was almost a relief. You say, 'OK, let's get back to work. Let's concentrate.' "

Langston, working with a 2-0 lead thanks to runs batted in by Chad Curtis and Tim Salmon, showed no expression after Ripken slapped a curveball into center field. Chris Hoiles followed by hitting a comebacker to the mound, but the ball slipped out of Langston's hand as he threw to second base and sailed into center field, sending Ripken to third.

Langston then got Segui to hit into a double play and Tim Hulett flied out to end the inning. Langston breezed through the eighth inning with two more strikeouts, and then Rodgers gave him the news he was going to be replaced by Butcher.

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