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Abbott, Angels Can't Break Cycle of Doom

Baseball: Pitcher loses his 15th game as the Royals come away with 18-3 victory.

August 11, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — 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 straight and 11 of their last 12 to fall 12 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers, 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 May 2 against Oakland. He fell to 1-15, and the nine earned runs he was charged with pushed his earned-run average to 7.79.

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

"I don't know what would take more courage right now, quitting or staying out there," Abbott said 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 general manager Tim Mead and pitching coach Joe Coleman into interim Manager John McNamara's office for a lengthy closed-door meeting on 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. We've got to do what's best for Jim, right after what's best for the ballclub."

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 precluded Johnny Damon's grand slam, the Royals' first of the season and their first hard-hit ball of the inning.

Before Damon's blast, the Royals scored two runs without a ball so much as reaching the infield dirt, 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 runs batted in and three runs scored. 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, including one by No. 9 hitter David Howard off McElroy in the eighth.

* Royal starter Chris Haney (9-10) threw only 85 pitches in an eight-inning, five-hit, one-run effort. That's seven more pitches than Abbott threw.

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

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