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Finley's New Angle Is Winner

May 30, 1996|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Don't be fooled by the mumbo-jumbo Manager Marcel Lachemann spouts. Forget the talking heads on TV, who mimic anything he says.

Chuck Finley might have moved from the third-base side of the pitching rubber to the first-base side, as Lachemann says. The move might be the reason for Finley's tremendous success in the past six starts, as Lachemann says.

But like other Lachemann-isms like "arm angles" and "tight pitch sequences" that smacks of bogus jive. Even Finley isn't sure that's why he's 4-0 with a 0.79 earned-run average in his last six starts.

Surely, a move of several inches across the slab is not what's driven Finley to such great success in the last six starts.

Maybe Finley, 7-2 after beating the New York Yankees Wednesday at Anaheim Stadium, simply has hit his stride in 1996.

The New York Yankees have seen Finley's act before. They couldn't hit Finley any better Wednesday than they could on May 19 at Yankee Stadium.

He went eight superb innings in the Angels' 4-0 victory Wednesday, striking out 10, giving up zero runs, seven hits and two walks.

That comes on the heels of a four-hit victory over Boston in his last start Friday. That followed 10 strikeouts in a 10-1 complete-game victory over the Yankees May 19. A fielding error led to the only Yankee run that day.

There were two no-decisions before the game at New York and then the streak-starter, a 4-1 victory over Minnesota May 3.

In his last six starts, Finley has 45 strikeouts with 16 walks and has given up a grand total of four earned runs in 45 2/3 innings.

"As far as efficiency, you can't be much better than his month of May has been," Lachemann said. "You can't step it up more than that."

The Yankees went 18 innings Wednesday and May 19 without scoring an earned run against Finley.

"I'm glad we don't have to face the Angels again [until August] because of the way Finley has pitched against us," New York Manager Joe Torre said. "He's dominated us."

Pressed again for reasons behind Finley's great success, Lachemann pointed to the move. That's his story and he's sticking by it.

"It's probably helped his curveball more than any other pitch," Lachemann said. "The batters will either sit or spit on his forkball. Now, he can drop in the curveball."

Finley did that repeatedly, freezing Yankee batters looking for either the forkball or the fastball. When the curve came instead, they had little chance. Many of his strikeouts came with the curve.

That's not to say Finley's forkball wasn't tough to hit, too. It was.

"He was throwing the forkball in the dirt and they were chasing it," catcher Jorge Fabregas said. "When he's on, I'm tired when the game's over. I'm blocking balls in the dirt.

"It was vintage Finley. It seems like every start he's got his stuff going. He's in a groove. It's like we're counting on him to give us a good game. And he's doing it."

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