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Angels' Grimsley Tames the Tigers

April 21, 1996|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann must have been sitting in the dugout Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium wondering if this was the same Jason Grimsley he had seen pitch in spring training on March 15 and 20.

It was on those two days that Grimsley pitched himself off the opening-day roster and into a job at triple-A Vancouver. Grimsley had given up a total of two runs in his first three spring-training starts, but he gave up six runs in each of his next two outings and earned himself a tour of the Great Northwest in the process.

With Angel starters struggling and Grimsley mowing down minor leaguers, the right-hander got another chance and quickly made a statement about his intentions to stick around.

In the Angels' 2-1 victory before 25,685, Grimsley--making his first major league start since August 1 1994--went 7 1/3 innings, struck out six, gave up six hits and one run against Detroit, one of baseball's best hitting teams. Mike James came in to get the last two outs in the eighth and Troy Percival pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save as the Angels won their fourth consecutive game.

"He came in and gave us a great pick-me-up when we needed it," Lachemann said. "It was just an outstanding job."

Grimsley, who was acquired in the Feb. 15 trade that sent left-hander Brian Anderson to Cleveland, was 2-0 with a complete game and a 1.20 earned-run average in two starts with Vancouver.

"He had some real good games this spring and then he got knocked around," Lachemann said, "but he did what you're supposed to do when you get sent down. He went out and pitched his butt off."

That's a pretty succinct description of Grimsley's effort Saturday night. He got off to an inauspicious start--his first delivery sailed over Chad Curtis' head to the backstop--but he quickly settled in, giving up one hit in each of the first five innings and then retiring the side in order in the sixth and seventh.

"I knew there was a lot riding on this start, but I just went out there thinking that if I kept pitching like I have been, I'd be all right," Grimsley said. "It's a big win, but I hope to make 25 or 30 more starts and I can't get too high after one win or too depressed if I have a bad outing.

"I was throwing fastballs for strikes on both sides of the plate and getting my curve over for strikes. As long as I do that, I can compete with major league hitters."

Saturday night, a team that came into the game third in the American League with 107 runs, couldn't compete with Grimsley.

"That was a truly masterful pitching performance," catcher Jorge Fabregas said.

Grimsley, who had a career record of 13-18 with a 4.75 earned-run average in parts of six major league seasons before becoming an Angel, was never in serious trouble until the fifth when the Tigers loaded the bases. Kimera Bartee got his first major league hit on a grounder that skipped off the glove of third baseman George Arias, Curtis walked and Grimsley plunked Travis Fryman with a two-out curveball that brought Cecil Fielder to the plate.

Fielder, who had hit eight homers and driven in 17 runs in the last 13 games, bit on a sinker and grounded weakly to shortstop.

Lachemann went to James after Fryman hit a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence with one out in the eighth. James caught Fielder looking at a slider for strike three and got Bobby Higginson to pop out. Percival gave up a two-out single to pinch-hitter Melvin Nieves but pinch-hitter Eddie Williams popped up.

The Angels got a run in the second inning when J.T. Snow doubled off the wall in left-center, took third on Garret Anderson's groundout to first and scored on Arias' single up the middle.

Tim Salmon, who hadn't had an extra-base hit in two weeks, doubled to left in his first two at-bats, but it was his walk in the sixth that produced the winning run. Chili Davis, returning to action after sitting out five games because of back spasms, doubled to left and Salmon scored on Snow's sacrifice fly.

"We're executing," Lachemann said. "Garret goes 0 for 4 but he moves the runner over, and J.T. gets the sacrifice fly. But it all starts with the pitching."

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