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BASEBALL EXTRA

Radke, Twins Mute Angels

Baseball: Minnesota pitcher wins 19th and Cordova hits two home runs in 9-3 victory.

September 17, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Most of Orange County apparently has given up on the Angels--how else do you explain back-to-back Anaheim Stadium crowds of 13,696 and 14,075 this week with the home team supposedly still in contention for the division title?

Then again, perhaps the serene setting in the Big and Empty A Tuesday night provided the perfect backdrop for the Angels' slide out of the American League West race--they seem to be going quietly into the night.

What little momentum and hope that was generated during a two-game win streak Sunday and Monday dissipated during a 9-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Twins' ace Brad Radke, who won 12 straight games from June 7-Aug. 4, delivered another in a seemingly endless string of blows to the Angel pennant hopes, giving up only one run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 19-9, becoming Minnesota's first 19-game winner since Scott Erickson in 1991.

Minnesota left fielder Marty Cordova also blasted a pair of two-run homers, helping to push the Angels six games behind Seattle with 11 games left. The Mariners' magic number to clinch the division title is now six, and the New York Yankees' magic number for clinching the wild-card berth is three.

The Angels, who have lost 20 of their last 30 games, may be a lost cause this season, but you can bet Manager Terry Collins and front-office executives are digesting these defeats with one eye on the future.

There are many decisions to be made this off-season, from which 15 players to protect for the expansion draft to which potential free agents are worth re-signing, and the Angels' September struggles should go a long way toward sorting these things out.

Few Angels on the bubble have made much of a case for themselves--free agents-to-be Rickey Henderson and Tony Phillips, the top two batters in the Angel order, have combined for five hits in their last 42 at-bats, and catcher Chad Kreuter is six for 32.

And the starting pitching, as it has been so often the past month, was shoddy Tuesday night, Shigetoshi Hasegawa getting ripped for five runs on seven hits in five innings.

Hasegawa, a long reliever who was making his first start since May 14, actually cruised through the first three innings, retiring nine in a row with three strikeouts, the last of which, by Pat Meares, was the Twins' 1,020th strikeout of the season, a franchise record.

Hasegawa gave up two hits in the fourth before striking out Ron Coomer to end the inning, but disaster struck in the fifth when Dave Ortiz singled and Cordova turned on an inside fastball, sending it over the bullpen beyond the left-field wall for a two-run homer.

Matt Lawton followed with a deep liner to right that caromed off Tim Salmon's glove for a three-base error.

Terry Steinbach struck out and Meares walked, but Chuck Knoblauch made it 3-0 with an RBI single to left. Hasegawa snagged Brent Brede's liner and turned it into an inning-ending double play, but more trouble awaited in the sixth, when Paul Molitor and Coomer each doubled for a 4-0 lead.

Collins pulled Hasegawa for Darrell May, and things only got worse. Denny Hocking bunted Coomer to second and Cordova launched another two-run homer, this one to right-center, for a 6-0 lead.

Tony Chavez then replaced May and walked two before giving up Meares' RBI single, which gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead. The Angels snapped Radke's shutout on Salmon's RBI single in the sixth, but the Twins answered with Knoblauch's RBI triple in the eighth and Lawton's RBI double in the ninth.

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