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Offense Missing Spark Vaughn Could Provide

Baseball: Angels leave 13 men on base in 3-2 loss to Blue Jays and look forward to slugger's impending return.

April 22, 1999|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TORONTO — The runs flowed freely and the hits were being sprayed all over the park just a week and a half ago, but it's as if someone put a kink in the hose delivering the Angel offense.

The Angels lost their fourth game in a row Wednesday night, falling to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2, in front of 23,749 at SkyDome. They left 13 runners on base, went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and are now two for 18 with runners in scoring position in this series.

"It's kind of a dull feeling, it's hard to explain," Angel catcher Matt Walbeck said. "It seems like guys are pressing too hard, not doing the right things. We're in a lull. Hopefully we can get more fire going offensively. A clutch hit or a big two-out RBI would help."

So would a big first baseman, a former American League most valuable player who has averaged 39 homers and 120 RBIs for the past four seasons.

Mo Vaughn is expected to be activated off the disabled list tonight, and though he likely will be limited to a designated hitter role as he recovers from a sprained left ankle, he could be just the boost the sagging Angels need.

"That could help, certainly," Walbeck said, "but we can't expect Mo to carry the team on his shoulders. He's not going to be 100% for a while with his ankle, but he could motivate some guys, knowing that he's not 100% and still grinding away."

The Angels, meanwhile, have ground to a virtual halt in Toronto after their enterprising offense--minus Vaughn and center fielder Jim Edmonds--scored an average of six runs a game through this past weekend.

They had a runner at second with one out in the third and fourth innings Wednesday night and each time failed to bring him home. They left the bases loaded in the fifth and two runners on in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

"There wasn't one moment throughout this game that I didn't think we had a chance to win," Angel Manager Terry Collins said. "All we needed was one hit. But every time we hit the ball hard, it was right at someone."

Example: With runners at first and second in the fifth, first baseman Darin Erstad, who is now mired in a one-for-17 slump, blistered a Chris Carpenter pitch, ripping a line drive right to center fielder Jose Cruz.

"I probably couldn't have hit a ball any harder," Erstad said. "But it's not how hard you hit the ball, it's where it drops. We're not getting the job done. That's the bottom line."

Making defeat more difficult to digest was the fact that starting pitcher Omar Olivares did get the job done.

Olivares, who is 0-4 lifetime against Toronto, was not as dominant as he was in his first two starts, when he limited Texas and Oakland to one run in 14 1/3 innings, but the right-hander pitched well enough to win, giving up three runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out three in six innings.

"Omar gave up three runs," Collins said. "We should win a lot of games when we give up three runs."

The Blue Jays scored in the third when, with runners on first and third and one out, Cruz beat out a fielder's choice that Erstad and shortstop Andy Sheets nearly turned into an inning-ending, 3-6-3 double play.

After Garret Anderson's tying, opposite-field home run to left off Carpenter in the top of the fourth, the Blue Jays, who have won seven in a row, countered with Tony Fernandez's single and Willie Greene's two-run homer into the second deck in right for a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning.

The Angels loaded the bases in the fifth on Orlando Palmeiro's walk, Randy Velarde's infield single and Tim Salmon's walk, and Carpenter walked Anderson to force in a run, making it 3-2. But Troy Glaus grounded into an inning ending fielder's choice.

Glaus, who hit his major league-leading 14th double in the fourth inning, also struck out to end the seventh with runners at first and third, trying to check his swing.

"You're going to hit some balls at people and go through times when things aren't going your way," Anderson said. "It's just a bad stretch where guys are getting a little frustrated, a little tense, a little ticked off. But no one is hanging their heads."

EDMONDS RESPONDS: Angel outfielder Jim Edmonds angrily defends his decision to put off shoulder surgery during the past off-season. Page 10

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