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Angel Pitching Has Another Collapse, 11-3 : Baseball: Oakland strikes quickly by battering Leftwich during a six-run first inning.

July 28, 1994|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At least the Angels were spared the indignity of listening to fans in Anaheim Stadium cheer for the opposition Wednesday.

After Phil Leftwich gave up six runs in Oakland's 36-minute first inning, Angel and Athletic fans alike were reduced to such a state of apathy that the loudest spectators were hundreds of day campers in the upper deck, challenging their counterparts across the stadium:

"We've got spirit. Yes we do. We've got spirit. How 'bout you?"

You need an oil-drilling rig to reach Angel spirits these days.

How low can they go? Wednesday's humiliating 11-3 loss to Oakland was the Angels' sixth consecutive defeat and left them a season-low 18 games below .500.

Afterward, the Angels locked reporters out of the clubhouse for 57 minutes as they discussed their woes and talked about "where we want to be as a team and how to get this ship righted," Manager Marcel Lachemann said.

Despite protests of "We're still in a pennant race," the Angels are apparently sinking, even in the weak American League West.

"It's not a lack of effort," said Lachemann, who called the postgame meeting. "We're getting smoked today and (Gary) DiSarcina is still diving for balls in the hole in the eighth inning and Chili (Davis) is still running out ground balls.

"If it were a lack of effort, it would be easy for me to scream, but it's just a matter of channeling that effort into more efficiency, into better focus."

The A's were clearly focused on Leftwich, rapping six singles, including five in a row, in the first inning.

The Angels drew 24,113 fans for the afternoon game, but long before the A's were finished, the stands were deserted. "It's possible that a team can say, 'Here we go again,' when something like that (six-run first inning) happens," Angel outfielder Jim Edmonds said. "I've seen it happen in the minors. I don't think a team meeting can change everything overnight, but I think some good things were said."

The Angels are seeking a veteran closer, but maybe they're looking for help in the wrong place. What about some quality starts? Chuck Finley gave up six runs in the first two innings Tuesday night.

A week ago, Lachemann was comparing Leftwich to Catfish Hunter while all those around him tried to keep a straight face.

"He doesn't have the stuff that will knock you down, but it can be like facing Catfish, when you'd go a very comfortable 0 for 4," Lachemann said. "I don't mean he's headed for the Hall of Fame, but he's capable of that kind of consistency."

Hunter won an Oakland-record 131 games, had an earned-run average of 3.01 and 24 shutouts. Leftwich is 9-15 with the Angels and has averaged only four innings in his last three outings. And his one-third of an inning Wednesday was the shortest by an Angel starter since Hilly Hathaway failed to get an out in Toronto last September.

"I think it was mostly a case of being too fine, of worrying about whether they'll move a runner over with an out, of trying to keep them at zero (runs) and then they end up with six," Lachemann said. "But we scored two in the first, and it could have been four and we would have been right back in it."

Davis and Edmonds had run-scoring singles in the Angel first and were on third and second base, respectively, with only one out. But Greg Myers struck out and J.T. Snow grounded to third.

By the end of the third inning, Oakland led, 10-2, with the help of Geronimo Berroa's 437-foot, three-run home run.

Despite his obvious pitching problems, Lachemann claims to be looking forward to the four-game series against the division-leading Texas Rangers that begins tonight.

"I really get to the point when I'm challenged like this where I relish getting after it," he said.

"I hope they do, too."

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