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DiSarcina Is Angels' Biggest Loss : Baseball: All-star shortstop is out for season because of thumb injury suffered Thursday. Rangers win, 6-4, despite two Salmon homers.

August 05, 1995|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just when Angel fans thought it was safe to come back to Anaheim Stadium, when an 11-game lead in the American League West seemed too good not to be true, the oft-cursed home team hit a major pothole along the road to a division title.

All-star shortstop Gary DiSarcina, whom teammate J.T. Snow describes as the "heart and soul of this team," will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and will probably sit out the rest of the season.

The second-place Texas Rangers did nothing to lessen the blow Friday night, beating the Angels, 6-4, in front of an announced crowd of 25,036.

Texas scored three unearned runs in the third inning, thanks to the first two of third baseman Tony Phillips' three errors and run-scoring doubles by Otis Nixon and Ivan Rodriguez. They scored again in the fifth on an RBI double by Lou Frazier and went ahead for good when Mickey Tettleton homered to center in the eighth.

Tim Salmon, who has 10 hits in 15 at-bats during the first four games of the home stand, hit two home runs to account for all four Angel runs and left-hander Chuck Finley struck out 11 Rangers, but this wasn't a night for Angel celebration.

And it was the first time in more than a month that the Angels have lost two games in a row.

DiSarcina's teammates went home after Thursday night's defeat thinking he had only sprained his thumb while breaking up a double play in the seventh inning of a game the Angels were trailing by eight runs. But they arrived at the park Friday afternoon to hear news of his impending surgery.

"It took my breath away," said Spike Owen, who will be at least the short-term fill-in at shortstop and maybe the long-term replacement if his sore shoulder--which will probably require surgery in the off-season--doesn't flare up.

The news seemed to take most of the Angels by surprise. Manager Marcel Lachemann said he had DiSarcina penciled in on his original lineup. And DiSarcina, who arrived at the stadium about an hour before the first pitch after an MRI at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, said he was still in shock and "so overwhelmed I can't feel anything."

He said he heard "something like a pencil breaking" when his thumb hit second base, but was still trying to convince himself it was only a sprain until team doctors gave him the diagnosis.

"This team is too good to go down the tubes because of one player," said DiSarcina, who is batting .317 with 41 RBIs and has the second-best fielding percentage (.987) in the league. "Having a good year makes it worse, and with the team playing like it is makes it twice as bad. It's going to be tough to sit there and watch."

DiSarcina said he hopes to be ready to return in time for the playoffs, but General Manager Bill Bavasi said that while that is not outside the realm of possibility, it would not be likely.

Bavasi, who signed veteran free agent Dick Schofield to a minor league contract Friday as insurance, said the team will be willing to trade for a quality, experienced major league shortstop, but he admitted "there aren't a lot of options out there."

"This hurts us, but I wouldn't call it a devastating blow," Bavasi said. "I'll make the argument that Gary is the best shortstop in the league right now, but we never thought we could go wire to wire without losing a key component. If we can't still win, we're not as good as we think we are."

The Angels point to their 14-10 record when designated hitter Chili Davis spent 24 games on the disabled list as proof of their ability to overcome these kinds of setbacks.

"We may be disappointed but we have to go on," Owen said. "Just pick up and pull together like we have all year."

The streaking Salmon did his best to pull the Angels along with him Friday night. He extended his hitting streak to eight games--all of them multiple-hit efforts--with a first-inning single, a homer to center leading off the fourth and then a score-tying three-run shot to right center in the fifth.

And Finley (10-8) gave up only five hits, but he walked four and the Rangers had baserunners in all but three innings.

Texas left-hander Kenny Rogers (10-5) gave up only four hits to batters other than Salmon. He threw 147 pitches in 7 2/3 innings, but picked up his sixth victory in six starts against the Angels.

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