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No-Lose Situation for Washburn

Angels: Left-hander in trouble often but emerges as winning pitcher in 2-1 victory over Devil Rays.

July 20, 2001|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Angel left-hander Jarrod Washburn does not have a lucky cap. He has not worn the same socks and underwear for his last 13 starts. He doesn't keep track of what he's eaten for breakfast or lunch on the days he pitches.

"I might be the least superstitious guy you'll ever meet," he said. "I just go out every fifth day and pitch."

There is a ritualistic quality to Washburn's starts, though. He doesn't lose.

Washburn gave up one unearned run and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings Thursday, striking out seven and pitching out of several jams as the Angels defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2-1, before 19,960 at Tropicana Field.

Benji Gil lined a two-run double to the gap in left-center in the fifth inning, and Troy Percival, after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, struck out three in a row for his 25th save, closing the Angels' fourth consecutive victory.

An emerging ace for a team in desperate need of a dominant starter, Washburn is 7-0 with a 2.77 earned-run average in his last 13 games and has not lost since May 8. The Angels are 10-3 in those games.

Washburn has given up more than three earned runs only once in his last 14 starts. After his first three games of the season, he was 0-3 with a 7.56 ERA. Now, after 18 games, he is 8-4 with a 3.41 ERA.

"I don't want to remember what it's like to lose a game," he said. "This [streak] is going to end someday, hopefully later than sooner. It's been fun, but it hasn't been easy. I got myself in a lot of trouble [Thursday] and was able to get out of it. I won't always be that lucky."

Catcher Shawn Wooten, who doubled before Gil's hit in the fifth, didn't think there was much luck involved in Washburn's three escapes.

With runners at first and third and one out in the second, Washburn struck out Andy Sheets and Jason Tyner.

With runners at second and third and two out in the fifth--after the Devil Rays had cut their deficit in half--Washburn got No. 3 batter Greg Vaughn to pop to short.

And in his most Houdini-like trick of the afternoon, Washburn got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth, striking out Sheets, getting Tyner to pop to short and Felix Martinez to ground to third.

"It seems like he bears down more with guys on base and goes to his bread and butter, his fastball," Wooten said. "He gets more aggressive. He went right after guys and worked in and out."

Manager Mike Scioscia pulled Washburn after Randy Winn's one-out infield single in the seventh. Ben Weber got Vaughn to ground to short, and with Winn on second, left-hander Mike Holtz came on to retire Fred McGriff on a grounder to first, ending the inning.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa retired the side in order in the eighth before yielding to Percival, who was pitching for the sixth time in 10 days, counting the All-Star game.

Percival had some gas in the reserve tanks--after striking out Steve Cox with a curveball, he blew a 97-mph fastball by Damian Rolls for Strike 3 and a 95-mph fastball by Winn for Strike 3--but he was gassed afterward.

"I was OK on the mound, but I was throbbing when I got into the clubhouse," said Percival, who has not given up an earned run in 16 2/3 innings on the road this season. "It's just fatigue, though. It's not pain. I need a day off."

Scioscia said Percival will not pitch tonight. It's also possible the entire team will get the day off.

The Angels are scheduled to start a four-game series at Baltimore, but tonight's opener could be postponed--as was Thursday's scheduled doubleheader between the Orioles and Texas Rangers--because of Wednesday's derailment of a train carrying hazardous material near Camden Yards.

Maybe a rest would do the Angel offense some good. In two games in Florida, the Angels went two for 18 with runners in scoring position and scored four runs. They won both games, 2-1.

"We let far too many opportunities go by," Scioscia said. "You have to feel fortunate to win two games when your offense is not getting it done. But the pitching has been incredible."

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