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Angel Infielders Throw Finley for Another Loss

Baseball: Left-hander suffers 2-0 defeat against Indians when Hudler and Arias fail to connect on first-inning play.

September 12, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND — Angel pitcher Chuck Finley had the perfect analogy for facing the potent Cleveland offense, which ranks first in the American League in batting and fourth in runs.

"It's like driving down eight miles of icy road," Finley said. "You've got to pay attention."

Finley navigated his way without incident Wednesday night, giving up five singles and no earned runs in seven innings. But a teammate in the back seat lost control for a moment, and the Angels wound up in a ditch, losing to the Indians, 2-0, in front of 42,264 in Jacobs Field.

Finley was superb, retiring 13 in a row from the first through fifth innings. He struck out two, walked none and recorded 14 ground-ball outs.

But he took little satisfaction in his performance. The Indians, who are batting .290, took advantage of two first-inning errors to score two unearned runs, and Finley (13-15) was left to ponder a defeat that matched his career high for losses, when he went 9-15 in 1988.

"Whether I pitch well or not, I want to win--that's what they pay me for," Finley said. "These types of games you take early in the season, because you pitched well and you have 28 or 29 more starts, but I'm running out of starts, we're running out of games."

And the Angels, who have lost 12 of 16, are running out of ways to lose.

The Indians beat them Monday night by scoring two runs on a sacrifice fly. They beat them Tuesday night with a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Wednesday night, it was a bad throw--or was it a good throw?--that cost the Angels.

Kenny Lofton opened the first by reaching on shortstop Gary DiSarcina's fielding error, stealing second and taking third on Jose Vizcaino's bunt single. With the Angel infield at double-play depth, conceding a run, Julio Franco struck out on a full-count pitch as Vizcaino took off for second.

Catcher Jorge Fabregas threw a strike to second, and Vizcaino pulled up about eight feet before the bag. But instead of tagging Vizcaino for the easy double play, second baseman Rex Hudler threw to third in an attempt to pick off Lofton, who bluffed but did not break for home on Fabregas' throw and was only a few feet off the bag.

Third baseman George Arias couldn't reach around Lofton to catch Hudler's throw, which went into the Indian dugout. Because umpires ruled Vizcaino had reached second by the time the ball went out of play, both Lofton and Vizcaino were awarded home.

Finley then retired Albert Belle on a ground ball that should have been the third out.

"It was a bad mistake," Hudler said. "I was more concerned with Lofton, but early in the game there's no reason to let one run scare you."

Arias seemed more surprised by the throw than Lofton. The ball wasn't far from the third-base bag, but Arias couldn't reach it.

"He made a good throw, I just got caught between Lofton and the ball," Arias said. "It all happened so fast."

Indian starter Jack McDowell gave up five hits and struck out seven in seven innings to improve to 11-9. McDowell has not lost a September decision since 1993.

A 67-minute rain delay after the seventh prolonged the inevitable--Eric Plunk threw a scoreless eighth and Jose Mesa a scoreless ninth for his 33rd save.

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