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Canseco's Bat as Hot as Red Sox

August 23, 1995|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Jose Canseco didn't like the tune Mike Harkey was whistling. The Boston slugger doesn't enjoy dancing to chin music and since the high, inside fastball seemed to be the pitch of choice on this evening, Canseco was especially displeased with the one that had just zipped past his throat.

So he exacted his revenge the best way he could--the way he predicted he would--sending back a fastball of his own, a low, rocket of a line drive that landed deep in the left-field seats for a two-run homer. The fifth-inning shot gave the Red Sox a 5-2 lead en route to a 6-4 victory Tuesday night.

The ball exited the park in a hurry, but Canseco took his time leaving the batter's box. He stared at Harkey. He looked at the ball bounding around the seats. He stared at Harkey again. Finally, he started a slow jog toward first.

By this time, an irate Harkey had begun moving toward first too, but plate umpire Tim McClelland, moving considerably more quickly than Canseco, sprinted out and sidled up to Harkey, providing a rotating buffer as Canseco ambled around the bases.

"I was just waiting to see if it would hook foul," Canseco said, smiling, "and [Harkey] was trying to follow me around the bases to make sure I touched them all."

It was the second home run in as many nights for Canseco and the 16th of his career in Anaheim Stadium, but clearly one of the most emotional. It not only answered Harkey's brush back and served as pay-back for the Harkey pitch that hit Red Sox catcher Mike Macfarlane in the head an inning earlier, but it regained the momentum for Boston after Chili Davis' two-run homer had pulled the Angels to within one run.

"Yeah, my adrenaline was flowing a little," said Canseco, who had told Boston Manager Kevin Kennedy that he would hit a homer if Harkey brushed him back. "I kept telling myself to be aggressive but not too emotional and fortunately he threw a fastball out over the plate."

The Red Sox designated hitter is as hot as his team. Boston has won 18 of the last 20 games and Canseco has hit safely in 13 consecutive games with six homers and 15 runs batted in, raising his average from .271 to .310 in the process.

In the third inning, Canseco drove in a run when he hit a ball as hard as the one that sailed over the fence. But this one barely got out of the infield. With the bases loaded, he smoked a drive that shortstop Damion Easley somehow knocked down and was able to recover in time to get a force out at third.

Luis Alicea scored, however, the 14th runner Canseco has driven in from third with fewer than two outs in 17 such opportunities this season.

"That's Jose," Kennedy said. "Big hits, big home runs, big RBIs. That home run tonight was crucial. It changed the game."

Canseco, one of only 16 players in history to hit 250 or more homers before the age of 30, has been on a tear ever since he returned from a month-long stint on the disabled list because of a rib injury and a groin strain. Canseco came off the DL running on June 20 and has added 130 points to his average. He has 48 RBIs in 55 games since his return, providing the kind of power and production the Red Sox expected when they got him in a trade with Texas last December.

"When he's healthy, he has fantastic ability," Kennedy said. "He has great bat speed and strength and he's a very selective hitter. This is the Jose we've all seen before. It was just a matter of getting him healthy."

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