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A Grand Return For Stevens

Baseball: Former Angel hits a slam for visiting Texas, which benefited from four home runs in an 8-4 victory.

September 27, 1997|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lee Stevens has been here before. In Anaheim Stadium, playing first base. But not playing here for the Angels seems to be the key.

Stevens was the hero for the Texas Rangers against his former teammates for the second consecutive night. His seventh-inning grand slam gave the Rangers a 8-4 victory Friday in front of 17,161.

It was his third home run in two nights against the Angels. A little reminder to a team that once traded him to Montreal for Jeff Tuss--who went back to Fresno State to play football rather than pitch for the Angels.

Still, getting nothing for Stevens was fine for the Angels at the time. He hardly distinguished himself while trying to replace Wally Joyner, hitting .221 with seven home runs in 1992.

Stevens never played for the Expos and most figured he would fade into obscurity. He was back Friday, but not with a vengeance.

"It's nothing too special," Stevens said. "Most of the guys I played with are gone."

Still, his grand slam off reliever Mike Holtz broke a 4-4 tie and capped the Rangers' seven-run seventh. His only other grand slam came with the Angels in 1992. Not that he holds any grudges.

"It doesn't matter to me where I am when I hit home runs, as long as I hit them," said Stevens, who has 21 home runs this season. "It is special because this is where I got my first hit and my first home run."

It seemed to matter a little more to the Angels. Matt Perisho plunked Stevens with a pitch in the ninth.

"I don't have any bad feelings toward the Angels," Stevens said.

He has worked through those problem, overseas. Stevens re-signed with the Angels for one month in 1993, before being given his release. He went to Japan and hit 43 home runs in two seasons with Kintetsu.

"I really got my head together because mentally I was a mess," Stevens said. "I became a better person and that made me a better ball player.

"It was a hard four years getting back to the major leagues. It was a lot harder than the four years it took to get there the first time."

He seems intent on staying.

Stevens has been playing for the injured Will Clark. The Rangers have hardly noticed the difference. Stevens has 21 home runs and 74 runs batted in. He has three multiple home run games this season.

"He seems to be adjusting to the role of every-day first baseman," Manager Johnny Oates said. "I got here at 1:30 p.m. and he was already here, ready to play."

Stevens' home run was one of four hit by the Rangers. Juan Gonzalez, Fernando Tatis and Alex Diaz had bases-empty home runs.

"We have to work on keeping the ball in the ball park," Angel Manager Terry Collins said. "We have given up 200 home runs."

Actually it's 199, but who's counting.

The Angels do have three 30-home run men this season. . . on the pitching staff. Dennis Springer, Friday's starter, has given up 32, Jason Dickson 32 and Allen Watson 36.

The Angel had 4-1 lead through six innings.

Garret Anderson doubled home two runs in the fifth, giving the Angels a 2-1 lead. Chad Kreuter hit a two-run home run a inning later, giving him five for the season. He had hit six in the previous four seasons combined.

But starter Springer couldn't keep the ball in the park. He gave up a bases empty-home run to Gonzalez in the fourth. No shame there. It was Gonzalez's 42 of the season and gave him a team record 10 in September.

Springer also allowed back-to-back homer by Tatis and Diaz--one down the left-field line, one down the right-field line--to start the seventh inning.

Said Collins: "Dennis was sailing along, then whack, whack, whack."

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