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Angels Are Silly Salvagers

They overcome some goofy plays in the field, chase Brown after five innings and deny Dodgers a series sweep with 6-3 victory at Dodger Stadium.

June 23, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The Angels seem a long way from repeating as World Series champions -- they're so far out of first place in the American League West, they'll need a strong second-half surge just to make the playoffs.

But for one afternoon, at least, the Angels -- in between some bizarre plays that left many heads shaking among a Dodger Stadium sellout crowd of 54,631 -- bore some resemblance to the team that swept through last October with a magical playoff run.

Their 6-3 interleague victory over the Dodgers featured a patient and pesky offense that pinned Dodger ace Kevin Brown with his first loss in more than two months, a solid start from Kevin Appier, a clutch relief performance from Brendan Donnelly and a knockout blow in the ninth, Garret Anderson's two-run home run that put the game out of reach.

"They took some walks, they were aggressive on the bases, they used the hit and run -- that's a lot of what we saw from them last year," Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts said. "[Brown] didn't have his best stuff, but that's a good team over there. If you don't bring your A game, it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to get hit."

The Angels avoided being swept in the three-game series and gained ground in the AL West, moving to within 12 1/2 games of Seattle, but they remained seven games behind Oakland in the wild-card race.

The Dodgers, tied with San Francisco for first place in the NL West, lost for only the second time in 12 games and completed the first of two rugged weeks by taking two of three from both the Giants and Angels. Now they'll go on the road for six more games against the 2002 World Series participants.

"We knew we'd have our hands full, but to win both series is big," Dodger right fielder Shawn Green said. "We fought our way back to first place; this is the time to make a move. I would love to build a big lead so we don't have to chase teams like we've done the last couple of years."

The Dodgers seemed poised for a sweep Sunday when they sent one of baseball's most dominant pitchers to the mound. But sometimes it takes the best to bring out your best, and the Angels seemed to rise to the challenge of facing Brown, who was 9-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average in his previous 10 starts.

Anderson doubled and scored on Bengie Molina's double-play grounder in the second inning, and the Angels peppered Brown with four singles during a three-run fourth, the most hits Brown has given up in an inning this season.

Brown gave up four runs and a season-high 10 hits in five innings, striking out eight and walking two. In his previous 10 starts, he didn't give up more than two earned runs. He fell to 10-2, suffering his first loss since April 18.

"Give the Angels credit -- they're the defending champs for a reason," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said. "They're a very solid team, and Kevin Brown is not a robot. He's a human being. He didn't have it today, and you know something? That happens to all of us sometimes."

Brown said a slight groin strain that knocked him out of his last start in the seventh inning was not a factor. His velocity was good, in the 95-mph range, but his pitches didn't seem to have the life they had in recent starts.

"I made some bad pitches that they took advantage of and some good pitches that weren't hit at people," Brown said. "I have to tip my hat to them. I didn't make adjustments quick enough."

Nor did he react quickly enough on Scott Spiezio's fourth-inning, bases-loaded shot that hit first base and caromed about 20 feet into the air. First baseman Daryle Ward fielded the ball about 15 feet from the bag, but Brown didn't get to the base in time to cover, and Spiezio was safe.

"If that ball doesn't hit the bag, it's a double with three RBIs," Spiezio said.

Instead, it was an RBI single that gave the Angels a 4-1 lead. Brown struck out Anderson to end the inning but was frustrated about the Spiezio hit.

"It would have been great if I had read that correctly and gotten out of that jam," he said. "It hit the bag, and I kind of froze. I didn't know where the ball was going."

Neither did the Angels in the seventh. The Dodgers scored twice with the help of reliever Ben Weber's two-error gaffe and right fielder Jeff DaVanon's ill-advised diving attempt for Paul Lo Duca's liner, which rolled to the warning track for an RBI triple.

Weber dropped Roberts' dribbler toward first and then threw the ball into right field, putting runners on second and third with no out. Donnelly, who has an 0.47 ERA, came on and retired Cesar Izturis on a pop to first and Green on an RBI groundout to second.

After Lo Duca's triple, which pulled the Dodgers to within 4-3, Donnelly struck out Ward with a nasty split-fingered fastball to end the inning.

"We pulled this together today and put together a great game," said Appier, who gave up one run and seven hits in five innings to improve to 5-4. "Hopefully this will bump us out of our rut and we can get into a groove."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Low-Ball Bid

Shawn Green leads the Dodgers with 38 runs batted in, putting him on pace for 83 this season, which would be one of the lowest totals to lead the Dodgers since they moved to L.A. in 1958. A look at the lowest RBI leaders for the team:

*--* RBIs Player Year 53 Tom Haller 1968 55 Ron Fairly 1967 60 Bill Madlock 1986 70 Ron Fairly 1965 72 Pedro Guerrero 1984 74 Jim Lefebvre 1966 74 Andy Kosco 1969 78 Norm Larker 1960 79 Willie Davis 1972 80 Ron Cey, Steve Garvey 1976 82 Mike Marshall 1988 83 Carl Furillo 1958 Note: Does not include 1981 strike-shortened season. Tommy Davis holds the Dodger record for RBIs in a season with 153 in 1962

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