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Gonzales' Homer Gives Angels a Victory : Baseball: Three-run blast beats Rangers, 9-8, to drop them 4 1/2 games behind White Sox. Juan Gonzalez hurts his back.

September 20, 1993|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rene Gonzales sat on a table in the Angel clubhouse, stroked his chin and pondered his fate. He'd love to stick around, play a part in what's to come at Anaheim Stadium and stay close to home.

But this has been a trying season, filled with strange twists and unpredictable turns. He has been in the starting lineup, on the bench, back in the lineup, back on the bench, and there's no way to know what might happen between now and spring training.

Gonzales' three-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday gave the Angels a 9-8 victory over the Texas Rangers before 26,155 at Anaheim Stadium, but it did little to ease the pain of a disappointing season.

"With two weeks left in the season, it really didn't alleviate much," said Gonzales, who homered for the first time since May 18, slamming the first pitch he saw from reliever Tom Henke over the left-field wall. "For the most part, the season's over. We're not in the pennant race."

The best Gonzales and his teammates could do was mess things up for Texas, which fell 4 1/2 games behind American League West-leading Chicago.

"That was a nice one to win," Manager Buck Rodgers said. "This game here might be the one that puts Chicago over the top. It depends on what we do with Chicago. Maybe we'll put Texas right back in it."

Down the hall, the Rangers could only fume at their inability to put the Angels away. They led, 7-3, in the top of the seventh before their bullpen let the Angels back in the game.

"I didn't like the way we went about it," Ranger Manager Kevin Kennedy said. "As much as I'd like to say we deserved to win, I don't think we did. We couldn't make the big play, couldn't put it away."

Worse for the Rangers, they lost outfielder Juan Gonzalez after he suffered a strained back muscle while trying to beat out a grounder in the third inning. He is listed as day-to-day.

Texas led, 8-6, entering the bottom of the eighth. Kennedy brought Henke into the game to face Chili Davis with one out and Chad Curtis on first. Davis battled Henke and drew a walk. Gonzales then hit a chest-high forkball over the 362-foot sign on the left-field wall for a three-run homer.

Joe Grahe struck out the side in the ninth for his ninth save and his second in three games.

"Gonzales has been driving in big runs, but he's not showing us the power he had at the beginning of last season," Rodgers said. "He popped that one good, hit a line-drive home run off one of the premier relievers."

Rodgers said he's already recommended that Angel management pick up Gonzales' option for next season.

"I'd like to have him back," Rodgers said. "(But) no player can you have back at any cost, especially a utility player."

That has been Gonzales this season--at times starting at third base, but more often filling in first for Kelly Gruber and more recently for Eduardo Perez.

Gonzales, earning $600,000 this season, said not playing regularly hurt his consistency at the plate.

"When you're coming off the bench, you just want to have good at-bats," he said. "I'll take my hits to right. The more at-bats you have, the more opportunities you have to set things up."

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