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Springer Short-Circuits Oriole Power

Angels: Knuckleballer defeats Baltimore, 13-0, as team finishes East Cost trip with winning record.

August 26, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BALTIMORE — Angel pitcher Dennis Springer heard the horror stories of cozy Camden Yards--a hitters' paradise, everyone said--and he was reminded of Baltimore's might every time an Oriole strolled to the plate.

That's why Springer, a 31-year-old knuckleballer who can count his major league victories on one hand, seemed genuinely surprised that he tossed a shutout Sunday, leading the Angels to a 13-0 victory before 47,239.

The Angels rocked long-time nemesis Scott Erickson for eight runs on eight hits, including Randy Velarde's grand slam that highlighted a seven-run fourth inning, and they pummeled the Oriole bullpen to finish with a winning record (6-4) on an East Coast trip for the first time since 1992.

Tim Salmon hit his 28th homer and had four runs batted in, J.T. Snow and Jorge Fabregas had three hits each, and Chili Davis had two RBIs for the Angels, who had a season-high 18 hits in their biggest victory ever over the Orioles.

But hardly a peep was heard from those booming Baltimore bats.

"You hear about this park and see their lineup with all those lefties, guys like Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar," Springer (4-2) said.

"And how many homers do they have? You look at the scoreboard, and every guy [actually six] has 20 homers or more. . . I can't believe I threw a shutout, especially with as many homers as I've given up lately [nine in previous five starts]. I guess it was a great day for a knuckleball."

And a sinker. And a fastball too, if you can believe that.

Springer's fastest deliveries reach 80 mph--that's off-speed velocity for some high school pitchers--but when you mix them with a 55-mph knuckler and put them in the right spots, you can handcuff one of baseball's hottest teams.

The Orioles, who had won 17 of 25 games through Saturday, managed five singles off Springer, who struck out six and walked two. Only once, in the eighth, did an Oriole reach second base. It was Springer's first career shutout and the Angels' first complete-game shutout on the road in 1996.

"I had a good little sinker, or split-fingered fastball--whatever you want to call it--working today," said Springer, who didn't record his first big-league victory until July 26.

"It's about three or four mph slower than my fastball, so when I'm behind in the count, instead of saying, 'here's a fastball,' and them tattooing it, I give them a fastball that's more of a sinker and an off-speed pitch."

And then there's his baffling knuckler, which the Orioles had as much success hitting as most of us have swatting flies.

The Angels have had a hard time with Erickson, the right-hander who entered with a career 11-1 record and 3.14 earned-run average against the Angels, including a 5-0 mark in 1995 and '96.

But the Angels softened him up with two rabbit punches--Gary DiSarcina's check-swing, RBI single in the second and Salmon's broken-bat, bloop-RBI single in the third--before Velarde delivered a roundhouse right, smacking a 2-0 fastball into the center-field seats for his first career grand slam.

"It came at a great time," said Velarde, "because in this park you need all the runs you can get."

After underachieving for months, the Angels came East and split four games in Boston, won two of three in New York and two of three in Baltimore, shutting out the Orioles twice. Two of their losses on the trip were by one run.

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