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BASEBALL EXTRA

Watson's Solid Effort Is All for Naught

Angels: Left-hander gives up only seven hits but is let down by still-dormant offense in 3-0 loss to Orioles.

May 08, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BALTIMORE — The Angels had an abysmal 7.51 team earned-run average in spring training, they've been without injured closer Troy Percival and starter Mark Gubicza for a month, and starter Mark Langston has been sidelined for a week.

But pitching--believe it or not--is the least of Manager Terry Collins' concerns. A struggling offense is what keeps Collins up at night and the Angels down in the standings, and Wednesday night's 3-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles only fueled the team's frustration.

Angel left-hander Allen Watson, pitching on three days' rest, gave up only three runs on seven hits in seven innings--a quality start, especially in homer-friendly Camden Yards.

But the Angels failed to get a runner to third base against Baltimore starter Jimmy Key and relievers Jesse Orosco, Armando Benitez and Randy Myers, managing only eight singles and losing for the second straight night.

"In my opinion we made one bad pitch this entire series, the one to [Cal] Ripken [that he hit for a grand slam against Pep Harris Tuesday night]," Collins said. "You're going to give up home runs in this park, but our pitchers did an outstanding job."

In the last 21 games, the Angel pitching staff has posted a 3.84 ERA, but the Angels are only 11-10 in that span. The offense, meanwhile, ranks last in the American League in home runs, last in extra-base hits, last in walks and 10th in runs.

"I know we're going to score runs, this team has a history of scoring runs," Collins said. "Our baserunning has been excellent. Pretty soon we're going to get some of these hits to fall or find holes."

That's never easy against Key, who improved to an American League-best 6-0 by limiting the Angels to six hits in six innings, walking three and striking out one.

The Angels' only real threat was in the third inning when Craig Grebeck and Darin Erstad led off with singles. But Luis Alicea fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts before popping out and Dave Hollins grounded into a double play to end the inning.

"Key has great command of his stuff and can trick you," Angel right fielder Tim Salmon said. "He has two or three different speeds on his fastball and changeup and throws them where he wants. He's a finesse guy who knows what he's doing. That's why he's one of the best pitchers in the league."

The Angels weren't expected to have one of the league's most potent offenses, but they thought they'd have more than a pop-gun attack. They've scored in double figures only twice this season, and they've averaged only 3.1 runs in eight games on this trip.

"Our pitcher throws a good game and we can't even get a run," center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "It's something we have to work on, getting guys on, moving them around instead of relying on doubles to knock guys in. We're not coming up with the big hits."

Some good came out of Wednesday night's game, though: The Angels are encouraged by the pitching of Watson, who had an awful 9.00 spring training ERA and was hit hard in his first two starts of the season.

But Watson, who threw seven shutout innings to beat the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, has not given up more than four runs in any of his last five starts and lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 5.45.

"He's shown in his last four starts that he's a good pitcher," Collins said. "There was a lot of concern because he was terrible in spring training and had a bad couple of outings early, but this guy can pitch . . . what we need to get our staff are some runs to work with."

Baltimore gave Key all the runs he'd need in the first when Brady Anderson walked, stole second and scored on Eric Davis' RBI double, a hit on which Davis suffered a mild right hamstring pull and left the game. Ripken's single to center scored Tony Tarasco for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles added their third run when Chris Hoiles homered to left in the fourth inning.

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