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Hill Shuts Down Texas and Leyritz Pipes Up

Baseball: His two-hitter fails to convince bitter Ranger catcher that Angels made a good trade.


ARLINGTON, Texas — Jim Leyritz is still not convinced the July 29 trade that sent him from Anaheim to Texas for pitcher Ken Hill was in the Angels' best interests, but Hill's value has done nothing but skyrocket in recent weeks.

The right-hander threw his first complete game of the season Friday night, giving up two singles and walking one to lead the Angels to a 7-1 victory over the Rangers before 31,809 at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Though he had no strikeouts, Hill (8-12) was dominant in his 97-pitch performance, locating his fastball, slider and forkball on the corners and retiring 13 in a row from the fourth through eighth innings.

And an Angel offense that scored 12 runs in Hill's last five starts exploded for 16 hits, including four by Jim Edmonds and two by Jack Howell, who each homered off Ranger starter Bobby Witt.

"He looked like he was on a mission tonight," Angel Manager Terry Collins said of Hill, who is 3-4 with a 3.88 earned-run average as an Angel. "He knew we needed a well-pitched game, and he stepped up and gave us one."

Hill has been the Angels' best pitcher this month, giving up nine earned runs in 45 innings of his last six starts, but the Angels were only 1 1/2 games behind Seattle when they traded Leyritz. Today, they find themselves six games back. Hill is certainly not responsible for the Angels' slide in the American League West--he has emerged as the staff ace in Chuck Finley's absence.

But Leyritz, who will undergo season-ending knee surgery next week, can't help but think there is a correlation between his departure and the Angels' descent.

"I thought one of the reasons we were successful was because of the attitude and influence Dave Hollins and I had in that clubhouse," said Leyritz, perhaps overstating his influence on the team.

"I was surprised by the trade, because one of the reasons they got me was I had experience playing in a pennant race. You don't trade someone with that kind of experience if you're committed to winning. They traded away a lot of karma. . . . Funny things started happening after I left."

Not funny if you're an Angel fan. Tony Phillips was arrested on a drug charge Aug. 10 and missed 10 games. Finley and catcher Todd Greene went down with season-ending wrist injuries Aug. 19-20.

Leyritz, who hit .278 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs for the Angels, knew the Angels needed pitching long before Finley got hurt, and he heard his name in trade rumors involving Mark McGwire, so he knew he was being shopped.

"But if you're trying to get over the hump, if you're really serious about winning, you trade for a guy like David Cone or Cecil Fielder," said Leyritz, a World Series hero for the Yankees last October. "It's not like they got a dominant starter--Ken was struggling at the time."

Leyritz was also bitter about the way his brief Angel career ended. "To this day, [General Manager Bill] Bavasi hasn't talked to me, and that's pretty cheap," he said. "There was no 'Thanks for coming, we appreciate it,' nothing like that. That left a sour taste in my mouth."

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