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Angels Score Early and Often

Baseball: Five-run first inning and six runs in the sixth propel them to 12-3 victory over the Yankees.

August 23, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina stepped to the plate in the first inning Thursday night with that same sinking feeling he has had for most at-bats against New York Yankee left-hander Kenny Rogers. An 0-for-27 career mark against a guy will do that.

"It's a mental burden," DiSarcina admitted. "When you're 0 for 27 against someone there's a feeling of total helplessness. It's like, 'Would somebody please come up and hit for me?' "

Joe Maddon, the Angels' interim to the interim manager, wasn't taking any volunteers, though, so DiSarcina had to hit for himself . . . and hit he did.

DiSarcina laced a two-run double over the head of left-fielder Tim Raines to cap a five-run first inning and singled off Rogers to start a six-run rally in the sixth, as the Angels coasted to a 12-3 victory in front of 27,191 in Yankee Stadium.

Rogers entered with a career 9-2 record and 2.43 earned-run average against the Angels, including a perfect game against them in 1994, but the Angels battered him for 10 runs on nine hits in five innings Thursday.

Angel left-hander Chuck Finley (12-12) gave up two runs on five hits in seven innings to earn his first victory since July 27, Jim Edmonds had two hits, including a three-run double in the sixth, and DiSarcina, who also doubled in the ninth, finally broke the spell Rogers had over him.

"For five years it seemed like every at-bat against him would be something different," DiSarcina said. "I'd hit the ball good and it would be an out, then I'd have a terrible at-bat where he'd abuse me. I can remember about five balls that I've hit well against him."

There were plenty of hard-hit balls Thursday, especially in the first, which included Randy Velarde's leadoff double, walks to Edmonds and Chili Davis, Garret Anderson's two-run single and J.T. Snow's RBI single.

The outburst gave the Angels a combined 16 runs in the first innings of their last four games.

"How come no one's asking about [1995 leadoff batter] Tony Phillips anymore?" DiSarcina said. "Guys are clicking offensively. We're helping each other out, taking walks, getting on base . . . all the things we weren't doing the first few months of the season."

The Angels have been quick out of the blocks, but they've also faded in the backstretch. Despite a 4-0 lead over Boston Monday night and a 5-0 lead over New York Tuesday night, the Angels lost both games, 10-9 and 17-6.

The difference Thursday?

"Having Finley on the mound," Edmonds said. "We've been putting five-spots up a lot, and it hasn't always been working. Obviously that's enough with Chuck on the mound, but maybe we need to pick our concentration up when he's not."

Finley owned the Yankees this season like Rogers owned DiSarcina--when Raines hit a sacrifice fly in the second, it stopped an 18-inning string in which the Yankees hadn't scored an earned run off Finley.

Paul O'Neill homered deep into the right-field seats in the fourth to cut the lead to 5-2, but the Angels turned a clutch, 3-6-1 double play to prevent a big inning in the fourth. Edmonds tripled and scored on Davis' single in the fifth, and the Angels blew the game open in the sixth.

"Today we came out hot and sustained it for the rest of the game," Maddon said. "We kept the accelerator down."

The Yankees have hit the skids. They are 20-21 since the All-Star break, lost each of their last four series, against Detroit, Chicago, Seattle and the Angels, and an American League East lead that peaked July 29 at 12 games over the Orioles is down to five games.

A sense of panic has permeated Yankee Stadium, where New York reporters have been questioning Angel players this week about their 1995 collapse, inquiring about what the Yankees might do to avoid blowing their lead.

"There's no magic formula other than getting well-pitched games," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "There's no place to hide. We've just got to keep working, keep fighting. I'm very confident we'll turn this thing around."

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