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Velarde Sneaks Home Undetected

July 01, 1996|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Instinct and anticipation will beat benign neglect every time.

The Angels and the Athletics might still be playing if not for the instincts and aggressiveness of Randy Velarde.

In the bottom of the first inning, Velarde reached base on the first of three singles and was on second with two out. Oakland pitcher John Wasdin got Tim Salmon swinging at a third strike, but the ball got away from catcher George Williams.

Velarde raced to third as Salmon sprinted to first. Williams finally found the ball, but threw late to first. Wasdin, standing between first and the mound, didn't realize Velarde had not stopped running, and the Angel second baseman found himself home alone with the game's only run.

"It's an instinctive play. You can't teach that," said Velarde, who extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games.

"In that situation, you have to anticipate going with two strikes. Once I saw it was a curve in the dirt I was going. And when I didn't see anyone covering home plate, I kept going.

"I didn't think one run would hold up, especially the way Oakland has been swinging the bats. But our pitching was outstanding tonight, from Ryan Hancock to Troy Percival. It was a big win, especially with Texas coming in."

Wasdin--who pitched his first major league complete game Sunday--rued his lack of coverage.

"It was a heads-up play by Velarde," Wasdin said. "He was very aggressive on the basepaths, and his aggressiveness won his team a ballgame."

A game the Angels sorely needed, Velarde would reiterate.

"Any kind of win for us right now is huge," Velarde said. "Nothing against Oakland, but I felt we kinda looked past them this weekend. That better change with Texas.

"People ask if you sometimes point to a certain game or series. From now on, every game is an important game for us."

Velarde was pretty much the Angel offense Sunday. The only other Angel hit was by Salmon, who singled in the sixth.

When asked if Salmon had asked to borrow one of his bats, Velarde smiled. "My bats are way too small for that man."

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