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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

ANAHEIM — Most of Orange County has apparently 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 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 winning streak Sunday and Monday dissipated during a 9-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night.

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 one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 19-9 and become Minnesota's first 19-game winner since Scott Erickson in 1991.

Minnesota left fielder Marty Cordova hit two 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 six, and the New York Yankees' magic number for clinching the wild-card berth is three.

"Until someone tells us we're dead we have to remain as optimistic as we can," Angel Manager Terry Collins said. "It's hard for these guys to put up a brave front, but they're proud, they'll go down fighting, and they'll get after it until the last breath is there.

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

There are many decisions to be made in the 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 6 for 32.

And the starting pitching, as it has been so often the last month, was not up to par Tuesday. Shigetoshi Hasegawa was ripped for five runs and seven hits in five innings, but pitched well enough, in Collins' eyes, to earn another start.

Hasegawa, a long reliever who was making his first start since May 14, actually cruised through three innings, retiring nine in a row with three strikeouts.

But disaster struck in the fifth, when Dave Ortiz singled and Cordova drilled a two-run homer over the bullpen beyond the left-field wall. Matt Lawton's liner sent right fielder Tim Salmon to the wall, but Salmon seemed to lose his bearings as he turned to catch the ball, and it caromed off his glove for a three-base error.

Terry Steinbach struck out and Pat Meares walked, but Chuck Knoblauch made it 3-0 with an RBI single to left. Back-to-back doubles by Paul Molitor and Ron Coomer made it 4-0, and Cordova's two-run homer off reliever Darrell May and Meares' RBI single in the sixth made it 7-0.

The Angels ended 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.

Jim Edmonds (home run) and Robert Eenhoorn (RBI single) provided two parting shots in the Angel ninth, but Orlando Palmeiro, after fouling off eight two-strike pitches, grounded into a game-ending double play.

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