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Owen Is a Hit as Pinch-Hitter for the Angels : Baseball: His seventh-inning single generates 5-3 lead against Yankees.

August 20, 1995|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The way pitcher Chuck Finley started Saturday night's game against the New York Yankees, there was some question about who would last longer--the Angel left-hander or heavyweight fighter Peter McNeeley.

Finley looked ragged in the first two innings, giving up three runs on four hits--all doubles. But he rebounded in Round 3 and shut out the Yankees over the next five innings, eventually turning the marquee match-up with David Cone into the pitching duel an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 41,453 expected.

Spike Owen's pinch-hit line drive single to right field scored Chili Davis and J.T. Snow in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Angels a 5-3 lead they held at press time.

The Angels had scored a controversial run in the bottom of the sixth to tie the score, 3-3.

With runners on first and second bases and two outs, Tony Phillips, who had struck out in three previous at-bats, lined a ball to center. Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams hesitated, then made what appeared to be a lunging grab just above the grass.

But second base umpire Al Clark, still on the infield grass, did not make an initial call, instead looking to third-base umpire Larry Barnett for help.

When Barnett came up blank, Clark ruled the ball a hit, bringing Damion Easley home with the tying run and Yankee Manager Buck Showalter out of the dugout.

Super slow-motion replays showed Clark probably made the right call--Williams appeared to short-hop the ball.

Finley, finding the range with his sinking forkball, gave up only two hits from the third through seventh innings, when he recorded six of his eight strikeouts.

Two batters swung wildly at third strikes in the dirt, and Angel catcher Jorge Fabregas had to throw to first base on two of the strikeouts, as Finley regained the dominating form he had in two previous starts against the Yankees.

Finley struck out 15 in a two-hit, 10-0 victory May 23 and gave up four hits and struck out eight in 8 2/3 innings of a 3-2 victory June 2.

Cone, 4-0 with 2.25 earned-run average in his first four Yankee starts since coming over from Toronto in a July 28 trade, had lost twice to the Angels but was impressive in both games, pitching a five-hitter over seven innings in a 2-0 loss May 1 and giving up eight hits in eight innings of 4-2 loss July 3.

So who were those guys on the mound early Saturday night?

The Yankees jumped all over Finley in the first inning. Williams led off with a double to right field, Ruben Sierra drew a two-out walk and Mike Stanley knocked a 3-and-2 pitch into the left-center field gap for a two-run double.

Stanley has simply owned Finley--the Yankee catcher was 21 for 56 (.375) with one homer against him coming into the game.

But the Angels came right back in the bottom of the first against Cone, the third Cy Young Award winner they have faced in the last three nights, following Boston's Roger Clemens and New York's Jack McDowell.

Jim Edmonds walked with one out and advanced to third base on Tim Salmon's single to right-center. Davis lined a single to right, hit No. 1,900 for the 13-year veteran, to knock in a run, and Garret Anderson doubled down the right-field line to tie the game, 2-2.

New York took a 3-2 lead in the top of the second inning on two-out doubles by Pat Kelly and Williams.

The Angels received some good news Saturday afternoon when Edmonds arrived at the park in good health and was immediately penciled into the starting lineup.

The center fielder sat out Friday night's game because of a strained left lower back, an injury incurred when he crashed into the wall after catching a fly ball against Boston on Thursday night.

"I feel almost 100%," said Edmonds, the American League's RBI leader entering the game. "I took a good jolt, and it's kind of like a bruise or a sprain. It's not just going to go away, but I've had surgery twice in the minor leagues [on his shoulder and knee] and I've always played through pain."

Edmonds, who played most of the first half of the season with a broken bone in his foot and has made several spectacular catch-and-crash plays into fences, appears to have overcome any mental hurdles involved with the first lower-back injury of his career.

He made a long run and diving catch of Russ Davis' fly ball to shallow left-center field in the second inning Saturday night and, though he got up a bit slowly, didn't seem to feel any ill effects.

"I hope I hit the wall again tonight--I'm not going to be tentative," Edmonds said. "That's how I play the game."

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