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It's Cora, Not Griffey, Who Does In the Angels

Baseball: No. 9 hitter provides key hits as Mariners win, 13-4, to stop Anaheim streak at seven.

May 20, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Angel Manager Terry Collins was asked before Monday night's game how he planned to pitch to Ken Griffey Jr., the Seattle Mariner phenom who is on a pace to hit 71 home runs and drive in 195 runs this season.

"I haven't the faintest idea," Collins said.

Funny, but no one asked Collins how he would pitch to Joey Cora, the Mariners' 5-foot-8, 162-pound second baseman.

Cora may be an afterthought in one of baseball's most potent lineups, but the No. 9 hitter was at the forefront of Seattle's 13-4 victory in front of 17,279 in Anaheim Stadium that stopped the Angels' winning streak at seven and the Mariners' losing streak at four.

Cora hit a two-run double in the second inning, homered in the fifth, walked and scored in the sixth, singled and scored in the eighth and singled in the ninth to key Seattle's 17-hit attack.

And, for good measure, Cora snuffed out an Angel uprising in the sixth inning with a superb catch of Gary DiSarcina's blooper with runners on second and third and the Mariners leading by three.

"What he did tonight was no fluke--Cora is a quality player and he can hurt you," Collins said. "He's been swinging the bat very well, and one thing about this league, with the designated hitter there's no one to pitch around. You can take a deep breath when the pitcher comes up in the National League, but you can't do that here."

The Mariners' big boppers, perhaps not wanting to get shown up by the diminutive Cora, finally sprung to life during a six-run eighth, which included Griffey's two-run double, Edgar Martinez's RBI single and Paul Sorrento's two-run homer off reliever Allen Watson and put the game well out of reach.

But it was Cora, whose average has jumped from .247 to .345 during his 15-game hitting streak, who provided the key hits.

"Joey is a big part of this lineup and everyone knows it," Griffey said. "He's a switch-hitter who can run and do the little things . . . and he's got his own little shower in there that's this tall," Griffey added, extending his arm and hand out from his his chest. "So he has some clout in this league."

Cora also showed some fine glove work in the bottom of the sixth. The Angels were within striking distance when Jim Edmonds singled, took second on a groundout and scored on Garret Anderson's RBI single off Mariner starter Jamie Moyer to cut the lead to 7-4.

Craig Grebeck then doubled to right-center, Anderson stopping at third, and it appeared the Angels, who had five come-from-behind victories during this homestand, had at least one more rally left in them.

DiSarcina followed with a flare into shallow right-center, but Cora raced back and made an over-the-shoulder basket catch, spinning and throwing home to keep Anderson at third. Tony Phillips then flied to left to end the inning.

Moyer, who missed the first month of the season because of a strained left forearm, went six innings, giving up four runs on four hits to improve to 4-0. Angel left-hander Mark Langston, making his second start since a late April elbow injury, was roughed up for seven runs--six earned--on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, falling to 2-3.

The heart of the Mariner order--Alex Rodriguez, Griffey Jr. and Martinez--had combined to hit .325 with 34 doubles, 31 home runs and 104 RBIs in the first 42 games, but the trio gave Langston no trouble Monday night, going 0 for seven against the Angel starter.

Cora, on the other hand, made life miserable for Langston. Dave Hollins' three-run home run in the first inning, which followed walks to Phillips and Darin Erstad, had given the Angels a 3-0 lead, but Cora highlighted Seattle's three-run second with a two-run double.

Cora then led off the fifth inning with his third homer of the season, improving his career average against Langston to .545 (6 for 11) and giving the Mariners a 4-3 lead.

Jay Buhner's two-run homer made it 6-3 in the sixth, and the Mariners were well on their way to victory in their first game against an American League West opponent.

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