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Benes Makes Debut Count for Seattle : Baseball: Former Padre pitcher is impressive in victory over the Angels.

August 04, 1995|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — The majority of Angel followers probably paid little attention to the fact that another important pitching debut was taking place Thursday.

Rest assured, however, in Seattle they were hanging on every pitch by Andy Benes.

Because if the Mariners are to overtake Texas, New York, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Baltimore for the wild-card playoff spot, Benes will be a key reason.

Benes, a 27-year-old right-hander acquired Monday from the San Diego Padres for minor leaguers Ron Villone and Marc Newfield, did not disappoint, bottling up the Angels while Seattle broke loose for 15 hits against Jim Abbott and Mike Butcher in a 10-7 victory.

"Abbott is a good friend of mine," Benes said. "You rooted for him over in the National League. I'm sure he was more nervous than I was in front of all these people. I felt comfortable out there, but I also had some emotion."

He also had a blazing fastball that the Angels never could catch up to.

The first time through the highest-scoring lineup in baseball, Benes struck out five of the nine. In the third, he struck out the side.

In six innings Benes struck out nine, gave up just two runs and six hits. He provided the sagging Mariners--11-16 in their last 27 games and losers of three in a row before Thursday--with a badly needed boost.

"He threw very well, at least he did his job," Seattle Manager Lou Piniella said. "You figure the Angels have to cool off sometimes, but they showed with their comeback they still have plenty in their tank."

His biggest test came in the sixth. Trailing 5-0, the Angels loaded the bases with none out on a hit batter and singles by Tim Salmon and Chili Davis. Still, it took a two-out pinch-hit single from Spike Owen for the Angels to score.

The kind of offense Benes saw Thursday happened in San Diego about as often as sellout crowds in Jack Murphy Stadium.

In his first seven starts for San Diego, Benes was 0-5 and the Padres backed him with only 19 runs. His first victory didn't come until June 16 against Pittsburgh, and the Padres had to score 12 runs to make sure.

In his five-plus years with San Diego, he rarely got to pitch a game in August or September that had meaning. That did not stop him from winning at least 10 games a year--15 twice--between 1990 and 1993, but it did make him wonder.

"The last couple of years had been difficult there," Benes said. "The only regret I have is not pitching better this year in San Diego; this team has a chance to win."

If nothing else, the Mariners know talent. Benes is the 12th first-round pick to play for Seattle this season. He is the fourth--along with Ken Griffey Jr. Alex Rodriguez and Tim Belcher--to be the first player taken in the June draft.

Piniella, whose been doing everything imaginable to keep his club afloat until injured star outfielder Griffey (broken wrist) comes back in about two weeks, is pleased to have his pitching staff significantly upgraded.

"The big thing for Andy is knowing he doesn't have to be the No. 1 guy," said Piniella, whose starting rotation revolves around Randy Johnson and Chris Bosio. "We've got a durable starter that will go out every fifth day and give us a chance to win."

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