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Defeat Has an Upside

Angels: Team is encouraged by resiliency after trailing by 10 runs in fifth inning of 12-11 loss to Blue Jays.

April 21, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TORONTO — The SkyDome scoreboard said the Angels lost Thursday night, and those indeed were the Toronto Blue Jays celebrating a wild and wacky 12-11 victory, but it was hard to find a long face in the Angel clubhouse, provided one didn't look in the direction of shellshocked pitcher Ken Bottenfield.

The Angels erased all but one run of a 10-run, fifth-inning deficit, piecing together an eight-run rally in the sixth in which every starter made a significant contribution, and pulled to within 11-10 on Matt Walbeck's homer in the seventh.

And it took a game-saving catch by Blue Jay shortstop Alex Gonzalez with the tying run on second in the ninth and a two-inning save by closer Billy Koch for Toronto to finally snuff out the Angels in a game the Blue Jays led, 11-1, after five innings.

"I like the way we came back--it shows this team's mentality," first baseman Mo Vaughn said. "It's easy to play when things are going well, but you judge a team by how it reacts when things get tough. We got down, but we kept pushing and pushing."

The Blue Jays just wouldn't tumble. After Walbeck's seventh-inning home run, Homer Bush gave Toronto a 12-10 lead with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.

Adam Kennedy's double, Vaughn's single and Tim Salmon's RBI fielder's choice made it 12-11 in the eighth, and the Angels threatened in the ninth when Troy Glaus singled and took second on Scott Spiezio's hit-and-run groundout.

But Gonzalez, who replaced starter Craig Grebeck in the eighth, raced into shallow center to make an over-the-shoulder catch of Walbeck's popup, and Koch struck out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro to end a four-game series in which the Angels and Blue Jays combined for 73 runs and 111 hits.

The Angels pounded out 19 hits Thursday, three each by Vaughn, Kennedy, Glaus, Walbeck and Darin Erstad, and Salmon, who hadn't knocked in a run since his first at-bat of the season, had three RBIs. Salmon, who is batting .173, also doubled and scored in the sixth.

"Tonight was definitely a great night considering the nights I've had," Salmon said. "It's a step in the right direction, and for the team to come back like that, it's a silver lining."

The black cloud was provided by Bottenfield, who was bombed for nine runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander spends hours before each start watching tapes of his opponent, devising strategies to set up batters, but the Blue Jays had their own plan for Bottenfield: the quick-hack, counterattack.

After Carlos Delgado homered, Jose Cruz smacked Bottenfield's first pitch up the middle for a two-run single and a 3-1 lead in the second. Raul Mondesi sparked a two-run rally in the third by hitting Bottenfield's first pitch for a double, and Brad Fullmer's RBI single in the third came on a first pitch.

Fullmer's RBI single in the fourth also came on Bottenfield's first pitch, and that proved to be his last. Manager Mike Scioscia pulled the starter for Kent Mercker, who walked Tony Batista and gave up Darrin Fletcher's grand slam, which capped a six-run rally and made it 11-1, Toronto.

"I had no idea where the ball was going," said Bottenfield, who entered with a 2.41 earned-run average and left with a 5.64 ERA. "For some reason I was hyped up, like my heart was beating 200 times a minute, and I had no idea what pitch to throw when.

"There are two or three times a year when my mind isn't right, everything happens too fast, and I get hurt. This team can score a lot of runs, and it's my job to keep us in the game, but I took us down early and killed any momentum we might have gained."

The Angel offense almost took Bottenfield off the hook by storming back in the sixth. Their rally began with Vaughn's single, Salmon's double and Garret Anderson's sacrifice fly.

Glaus hit an RBI single, Spiezio walked, and Walbeck singled to load the bases. Benji Gil's RBI single made it 11-4, Erstad's two-run single made it 11-6, and Kennedy's single loaded the bases again.

Vaughn then ripped a two-run single to right, Erstad scoring from second ahead of the strong-armed Mondesi's throw from the outfield, and Salmon capped the rally with a sacrifice fly to pull the Angels to within 11-9.

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