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Angels Pitch More Blanks

Baseball: Another strong performance from Finley leads to 4-0 victory over Yankees.

May 30, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — If ever there was a time for the Angels to make a move in the American League West--or at least a motion toward contention--this would seem to be it.

Stuck in neutral for the first two months of the season, the Angels beat the New York Yankees, 4-0, Wednesday night before 19,246 in Anaheim Stadium for their first back-to-back victories since a five-game winning streak May 1-5.

The victory, forged on the strength of Chuck Finley's eight-inning, seven-hit, 10-strikeout performance, came on the heels of Tuesday night's 1-0 victory over New York, in which the Angels had two hits but got a complete-game five-hitter from Jason Grimsley.

Mark Langston returns to the rotation Friday night, and red-hot Shawn Boskie will pitch Saturday, so the Angels, who remain 7 1/2 games behind first-place Texas, have a chance to climb out of the one-step-forward, two-steps-back rut they've been in all season.

"Right now," designated hitter Chili Davis said, "I feel like we're just ready to break out."

The Angels have maintained throughout their April/May struggles that it's early, there's no reason to panic, there are plenty of games left. But they are nearing the one-third point of a season that isn't so young any more.

"I don't think we can keep using that as an excuse," said first baseman J.T. Snow, whose two-run single gave the Angels a 4-0 lead in the third inning Wednesday night.

"You keep saying, 'It's early, it's early,' and before you know it, it's late. We have to take care of ourselves and not worry about others ahead of us . . . but you've got to hang around. You don't want to be 10 games back at the All-Star break."

That's probably where the Angels would be today without Finley, who again mixed an effective curve with his usually reliable forkball and fastball to shut down the American League's top offensive team.

Troy Percival pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill and Gerald Williams to preserve the shutout, the first time since June 11 and 12, 1992, the Angels have had consecutive shutouts.

Finley, who beat New York, 10-1, in Yankee Stadium May 19, has been phenomenal in his last six starts, going 4-0 with an 0.79 earned run average, giving up 31 hits, four earned runs and striking out 45 in 45 2/3 innings while the rest of the rotation stumbled in Langston's absence.

"He's been the savior," Snow said. "I don't know where we'd be without him."

The Angels gave Finley (7-2) an early cushion with runs in the first and second innings and two more in the third.

Rex Hudler, who had to leave the game in the top of the sixth because of a tight left quadriceps muscle, led off the first with a bloop double to left and became the first Angel this season to steal third.

Hudler then scored on Tim Salmon's sacrifice fly to left off Yankee pitcher Ramiro Mendoza, who was making his second major league start. Jack Howell led off the second with a bases-empty homer to left, his fifth of the season, to make it 2-0.

Hudler also ignited the Angels' third-inning rally, leading off with a hard double down the left-field line. Garret Anderson, who had his first three-hit game of the season, reached on an infield single, and both runners advanced on Salmon's groundout.

Yankee Manager Joe Torre opted to walk Davis intentionally to pitch to Snow, who slapped an 0-2 pitch to center for two runs and a 4-0 lead.

Yankee relievers Bob Wickman, Steve Howe and John Wetteland shut out the Angels on two hits over the final four innings, but the Yankees threatened only once against Finley, in the seventh, and hardly touched Percival.

The Angels still haven't hit this season like they believe they can, but they've put together two solid pitching performances and have at least a modest winning streak entering a three-game series against Baltimore.

"You try to stem the tide until everything falls into place and you get everyone back," Manager Marcel Lachemann said. "Right now we're kind of treading water, trying to keep ourselves in this thing until we can start operating at a good level and put together a good run. When will that be? I would like to think it isn't far away."

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