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Angels Reach a New Low in 18-3 Loss

Baseball: Abbott, relievers can't do a thing right as Royals romp.

August 11, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The broken record that is Jim Abbott's 1996 season played on Saturday night, subjecting an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 21,657 to another fingernails-on-the-chalkboard kind of performance.

This time Abbott gave up six runs in the first inning, one in the third and two in the fourth, sending the Kansas City Royals well on their way to an 18-3 blowout.

The last-place Angels have lost six in a row and 11 of 12 to fall 12 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, but Abbott's string of misfortune is even more staggering.

He has not won a game in more than three months, his lone victory this season coming against the Oakland Athletics May 2. He fell to 1-15, and the nine earned runs he was charged with pushed his earned-run average up to 7.79.

More than a year has passed since the Angels acquired Abbott in a trade from the Chicago White Sox, and he still has not won a game in Anaheim Stadium. His last win as an Angel here came Sept. 11, 1992.

"I don't know what would take more courage right now, quitting or staying out there," Abbott told reporters after meeting with General Manager Bill Bavasi in the clubhouse equipment room.

"I've never put much stock in giving up. I don't want to do that. But at the same time, this is an awfully frustrating time, and the well of hope is getting drier and drier."

As Abbott spoke to reporters, Bavasi called assistant GM Tim Mead and pitching coach Joe Coleman into interim Manager John McNamara's office for a lengthy closed-door meeting to discuss Abbott's status.

But if a demotion to the minor leagues is in Abbott's future, Bavasi wasn't letting on Saturday night.

"There's no course of action, we're just trying to get him out of his funk," Bavasi said. "He's still here until he's not."

Coleman said that, as of Saturday night, Abbott would remain in the rotation, "but we'll see tomorrow where he is confidence-wise. If he's not going to get better with some kind of quick fix, we'll go from there, but no decision has been made about that."

Abbott, who leads the major leagues in losses, didn't give himself a chance Saturday night, walking four batters, all of whom scored. Three of those walks in the first inning preceded Johnny Damon's grand slam.

Before Damon's blast, the Royals scored two runs, taking advantage of two infield singles and Abbott's lack of control. Michael Tucker also hit a bases-empty home run in the third--the 20th homer Abbott has given up this season.

The line of Angel relievers behind Abbott did little to distinguish themselves, as Jason Grimsley and Chuck McElroy combined to walk four and give up nine more runs, the pathetic pitching leading to a number of oddities:

--Royal catcher Mike Sweeney did not put the ball in play in his first five plate appearances yet had two RBIs and three runs. Sweeney fouled out twice, but two of his three walks came with the bases loaded.

--Damon, who had all of 37 RBIs entering the game, tied a Royal single-game record with seven RBIs, four on his grand slam, one on a fourth-inning fielder's choice and two on a sixth-inning single.

--The Royals batted around three times, and a team that ranks last in the major leagues in home runs hit three Saturday night.

The Angels managed only eight hits, and in their five losses this homestand, they are batting .195 (32 for 164) with only 12 runs.

"It hasn't been a fun five days," said McNamara, who is still looking for his first victory since taking over for Marcel Lachemann Tuesday. "It's not that these guys lack desire or intensity on the bench. But when you get down like this, it's really difficult."

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