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Angels Cook at Home Again With 18-3 Feast

May 22, 1997|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — The Angels left town fat, happy and bubbling with confidence. It was a drastic mood swing for the team that wearily dragged itself home nearly two weeks ago and believed a players-only meeting was necessary.

Amazing what a near-perfect visit home will do for your psyche.

The Angels finished off a 9-1 home stand much as they began it, banging out 21 hits Wednesday night in an 18-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

It was their season high for runs and hits, topping the 16 runs and 18 hits they had against the Chicago White Sox on their first game back from the last trip.

A crowd of 20,295 at Anaheim Stadium saw the Angels do much as they have done for nearly two weeks: come up with big hits and at least one big inning. The Angels scored six runs in the second inning to break the game open and then poured it on.

Every starter had at least one hit and seven drove in at least one run. It was a fond farewell.

"We were feeling pretty down when we came home, and we reeled off seven [victories] in a row," said shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who had four hits and four runs batted in. "This gives the whole team confidence. This was a breath of fresh air."

And at a much higher altitude. The Angels were six games behind the West Division-leading Mariners after a 3-8 trip, during which the Angels lost four games by two or fewer runs. They leave three games above .500 and tied with Seattle for second, 1 1/2 games behind Texas.

It was not just that the Angels have been winning, it was who they have been beating. Baltimore has the best record in the American League, Seattle has the league's second-best road record and Chicago came to town with five-game winning streak.

But the Angels began scoring runs in bunches. Six times they batted around in an inning during the home stand, including twice Wednesday.

"It was really a matter of getting the big hit at the right time," DiSarcina said.

DiSarcina had two Wednesday, a second-inning single and fourth-inning double, both with the bases loaded. He dumped a single into right field to break a 1-1 tie in the second inning.

"You try to relax a little and don't try to do too much at the plate," he said.

The Angels didn't. They had seven singles in second inning, none hit particularly hard.

Garret Anderson had two, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. Darin Erstad looped a broken-bat single into left field to score two runs. Jim Leyritz hit a high fly that dropped for a hit when Ken Griffey Jr. appeared to lose it the lights. Anderson followed with his second hit to score Jim Edmonds for a 7-1 lead.

But what made the inning work were the little things did.

Tony Phillips had a sacrifice bunt, which advanced runners to second and third just before Erstad's flair single. Erstad then stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Dave Hollins.

"We're started executing properly. That's what wins you games," Manager Terry Collins said. "We came home and started doing that phase of the game better and we started being successful."

Later, the Angels unloaded the big stuff. Edmonds and Jack Howell had sixth-inning home runs. Craig Grebeck even had a bases-empty home run, his first in more than a year.

Seattle also made three errors, one by right fielder Jay Buhner, whose errorless streak ended at 173 games.

It got so bad that most Mariner starters were gone by the seventh inning.

Seattle starter Dennis Martinez (1-5) wasn't around for much of it and may not be again, at least pitching for the Mariners. Martinez, who has won 241 games during 20 seasons, was given two chances to improve. This was No. 2. He left, sprinting to the dugout, after giving up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Chuck Finley (2-4), on the other hand, had a fairly stress-free outing. He went seven innings, striking out seven. He even handled Griffey, getting him to ground into a double play in the third inning and striking him out in the fifth.

"You have to play above .500 at home," DiSarcina said. "It gives you a nice comfort zone."

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