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Meeting Fails to Revive Angels

Baseball: A 4-2 loss to Royals leaves Anaheim 5 1/2 games behind Mariners with 16 left.


ANAHEIM — Terry Collins doesn't like team meetings, because team meetings are usually reserved for losers. "How many team meetings you think the Orioles or Braves have had this year?" the Angel manager asks.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, so he held a closed-door team meeting Thursday afternoon.

Collins isn't particularly superstitious, either, but he snatched the penny first-base coach Dave Parker found on the field during batting practice--"it was face up, too," Parker assured--and slipped it into his pocket.

Motivational talks and lucky coins couldn't turn the Angels fortunes, however, and the Kansas City Royals handed them yet another setback with a 4-2 victory in front of 14,790 in Anaheim Stadium. The loss, their 18th in the last 25 games, kept them 5 1/2 games behind Seattle--which lost to Detroit--in the American League West.

What's left?

Maybe take Chuck Finley's suggestion to "hire a voodoo witch doctor to wave some garlic around here."

The team meeting was short. Collins, who says anyone can speak out at any of his meetings, apparently was the keynote, and lone, speaker.

"There was no screaming or hollering," Collins said. "I just wanted the players to know that we're behind them. We can't get frustrated. All we can do is give a maximum effort for the next 16 games and then we can walk away with our heads up. If it isn't enough, it isn't enough."

A concession speech? He certainly didn't intend it to be, but if the Angels keep losing, he'll be able to recycle it in a few days.

The heart of their batting order has almost been in full arrest, the heart of their rotation has been missing three out of four beats and the Angels arrived home on the verge of being pronounced dead in the AL West. Thursday night's game did nothing to change the prognosis.

No. 3 hitter Darin Erstad was two for 21 on the recent trip. No. 5 Jim Edmonds is hitting in the .220s since returning from the disabled list Aug. 16. No. 6 Dave Hollins and No. 7 Garret Anderson have combined to drive in four runs in the last 17 games. Only cleanup hitter Tim Salmon, who hit his 31st homer in the seventh inning, is producing offensively on a consistent basis.

"We're just not getting the hits when we need them," Collins said, "but the guys are putting good swings on the ball. Chad Kreuter, Jim Edmonds and [Gary] DiSarcina all hit rockets that ended up in double plays."

Ken Hill has been the only effective starter lately. Allen Watson, Jason Dickson and Thursday night's starter Dennis Springer, had all given up more earned runs than innings pitched in their last three starts.

Springer's knuckleball was floating tantalizingly on this evening, though, and he allowed just seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, two of them were home runs and provided everything Royals starter Kevin Appier and five relievers needed. Roderick Myers led off the fifth with a shot over the wall in right and the Royals got two more via the big fly in the seventh when Myers doubled and Dean Palmer slammed a Springer delivery into the construction area in left field.

The Angels' misfortunes began--or is that continued?--in the second inning, when they had three consecutive hits but failed to score. The inning ending with the bases loaded when Kreuter's shot to third began an inning-ending double play.

Their luck was still hard in the fifth. Hollins led off with a single and moved over to third on Anderson's single to right. The Royals pitched out just as Anderson broke for second and, with Anderson in a rundown, Hollins tried to score but was thrown out at the plate by first baseman Jeff King.

Collins had already chucked the lucky penny by the seventh. Salmon led off with a homer to left and, one out later, Hollins doubled to left. Anderson singled to right with Hollins holding at third and pinch-hitter Chris Turner walked to load the bases. Royal Manager Tony Muser then brought in Greg Olson, who got DiSarcina to rip a shot at Palmer, which resulted in another double play.

"I threw that penny away after the second double play," Collins said, "and I told Dave not be finding me any more 'lucky' coins."

Tony Phillips said after the game that he thought the Angels still had a chance at winning the division because Seattle "isn't doing so hot either," but Collins knows time is on the Mariners' side.

"Look, I don't care what Seattle does," he said. "If we don't start winning pretty soon, it isn't going to matter."

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