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Angels Continue to Fade With 3-1 Loss to Orioles

September 12, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Blame Seattle.

If not for the Mariners stumbling back to the pack in the American League West, the Angels would be congratulating themselves on a fine year. The stench of last year has been eradicated, and some promising young pitching has been developed.

The Angels are a .500 team today, an entirely reasonable outcome for a club with big bats on offense and fresh faces in the starting rotation. In no other division would the Angels be fewer than 11 games out of first place, and so the Angels could devote September to auditioning cast members for next season.

In the AL West, however, the Angels remain a contender, although hope is fraying rapidly after Monday's 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Angels frittered away another day of a dying season, failing to gain in the division race (six games behind Seattle) or wild-card race (6 1/2 games behind Cleveland, and trailing Oakland, Toronto and Boston too). The Angels have lost eight of their last 12 games, with 18 to play.

"I'm not going to sit here and say we've been successful considering everything," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have an opportunity to get to the playoffs. That's our goal. If we fall short, I'll be disappointed."

Disappointed, sure, but not devastated. The Angels emerged from the summer comfortable that they have developed some of baseball's most precious commodity, young pitching. Scott Schoeneweis, Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz appear to belong. Brian Cooper, Seth Etherton and Matt Wise had their moments too.

Young pitching takes time to develop, and that pace can be maddeningly inconsistent--Ortiz beating Pedro Martinez in one start, failing to escape the first inning in another.

"Starting pitching is an evolutionary process," Scioscia said.

But Schoeneweis has been a fair beacon of consistency. He lost Monday, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings before back spasms forced him from the game. He has pitched 161 innings on a staff on which no other pitcher has reached 100. In today's day and age, his 4.86 earned-run average is downright respectable, bordering on very good.

In 21 of 24 starts, he has pitched into the seventh inning. He didn't plan on leaving during the seventh Monday, but he didn't question Scioscia's judgment that the back spasms were leading to faulty mechanics, which could lead to further injury.

"That's why I don't make the decisions," Schoeneweis said. "I pitched through chemotherapy [in college] and that was a mistake. I blew out my arm."

During a long and brutal offseason, when critics pilloried General Manager Bill Stoneman for failing to offer a contract to Chuck Finley and failing to acquire veteran starting pitching, Stoneman repeated that the kids would be afforded chances.

And, during a pleasant summer of surprise contention, Stoneman did not flinch from his plan. He refused to trade young pitching for veteran help--and, in fact, traded away veteran pitcher Kent Bottenfield for designated hitter Ron Gant.

And so the Angels may not have a playoff berth. Their plan indicated they never expected to challenge for a playoff berth this year in the hope of many years of future contention.

An otherwise uneventful and listless evening at Edison Field was marked by two milestones. Troy Glaus drew his 100th walk, joining Brian Downing and Tony Phillips as the only players in franchise history to reach 100 walks. Phillips holds the franchise record with 113 walks in 1995.

Cal Ripken Jr. singled in the eighth inning for the 3,053rd hit of his career, tying Angel icon and Hall of Famer Rod Carew for 19th place on the all-time list.

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