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BASEBALL EXTRA | ANGEL REPORT

Smash-Mouth Baseball His Forte

September 08, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

If you're scoring at home, it was Tiger Stadium Dugout 1, Chad Kreuter 0.

The Angel catcher was knocked unconscious before Saturday's game when, after scooting up the steps from the tunnel into the dugout, he rammed his face into a concrete lip on top of the dugout, which is only 6 feet high.

The impact dislodged the caps on Kreuter's two front teeth and sent him sprawling back into the tunnel.

"They say, 'Go knock yourself out.' Well, I really did," Kreuter said. "I was out cold--I was laying there for about 30 seconds before someone noticed me. I thought someone hit me with a bat or something. I didn't know what happened."

Kreuter recovered quickly enough to play, going hitless in three at-bats in a 7-5 loss to the Tigers, but he had a headache for most of the afternoon and it hurt to breath out of his mouth because nerves in his gums were exposed.

He wasn't in the starting lineup Sunday but entered in the ninth inning, fitted with a protective mouthpiece. Kreuter struck out twice in the Angels' 5-4 victory but came up with a huge defensive play, throwing out league stolen-base leader Brian Hunter attempting to swipe second in the bottom of the ninth.

Kreuter plans to have the caps replaced during an off-day on the Angels' next homestand, but until then he'll have to put up with the barbs from teammates.

"We've been calling him Jack," pitcher Chuck Finley said, "for jack-o'-lantern."

Added pitcher Allen Watson: "That's why I gave up so many runs [Saturday]. I couldn't stand looking at him."

*

While most batters complained about home plate umpire Mike Everitt's extremely liberal strike zone Sunday, pitchers loved his calls.

"I've never seen a strike zone like that," Finley said. "Everitt is the kind of guy you'd like to put in your back pocket and haul around with you."

Said injured pitcher Mark Langston: "If I had a strike zone like that every game, I might try another comeback."

Angel starter Jason Dickson gave up four runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, but struck out only one.

"The strike zone seemed to expand when [reliever Mike] James got in the game [in the eighth]," Dickson said. "I'm sorry I missed it."

The wide strike zone may have benefited Shigetoshi Hasegawa most. The Angel right-hander's success depends on his ability to hit corners, and he got many strike calls off the plate.

Asked if Hasegawa, who gave up one hit and struck out eight in four innings to gain the victory, did a good job, Manager Terry Collins said, "Who knows?"

*

The Angels got off to a good offensive start Sunday, scoring twice in the first inning on Tim Salmon's RBI double and Jim Edmonds' RBI single, but the Tigers responded with three in the bottom of the first on Bobby Higginson's RBI single and Tony Clark's two-run home run off Dickson.

Rickey Henderson's walk and Tony Phillips' RBI double tied the score, 3-3, in the fifth. Detroit went ahead on Travis Fryman's solo home run in the sixth, but the Angels pulled even in the eighth when Salmon walked, took third on Edmonds' single and scored on Dave Hollins' sacrifice fly, the Angel third baseman's first RBI since Aug. 24.

Phillips started the 15th-inning rally with a double to left and took third on Darin Erstad's bunt before scoring on Robert Eenhoorn's sacrifice fly.

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