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DODGER-ANGEL REPORT

Upcoming Schedule Gives Them Hope

June 30, 2003|Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writers

The Angels concluded their interleague schedule Sunday, and club officials point to the upcoming schedule as a major reason they believe the team will rejoin the playoff chase. The Angels are 6 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox and 5 1/2 behind the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card race, but the A's have played 30 games against the American League Central, the Red Sox 23 and the Angels five.

The Angels are 5-0 against the AL Central and went 30-15 against that division last season. With that part of the schedule in their favor, and with 12 of the next 21 games against teams with losing records, the Angels could make up enough ground by the July 31 trading deadline to consider adding talent.

"This organization really doesn't try to make big moves, especially when they have a nucleus here," utilityman Shawn Wooten said.

"I don't honestly think they'll do anything. They have a lot of confidence in this team. Even though we lost [Brad] Fullmer, [Jeff] DaVanon has stepped in, and I don't think we'll miss a beat."

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Scott Schoeneweis, the Angels' reluctant reliever, initiated a lengthy closed-door meeting with Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black. Schoeneweis declined to discuss the meeting, but Scioscia said he did not ask for a trade.

Schoeneweis, displaced from the starting rotation last season, became an effective left-handed reliever, the Angels' go-to guy against such left-handed hitters as Jason Giambi and Jim Thome. Even that role appears to have evaporated this season, and Black said his current role is "middle to late relief, just like [Scot] Shields, [Ben] Weber and Frankie [Rodriguez]."

Said Scioscia: "His role has expanded. It can be different as we go, but his arm will be very important to us."

Schoeneweis has a 5.19 earned-run average in 26 innings, fewer than any Angel pitcher except Troy Percival, who spent two weeks on the disabled list. He is making $1.425 million this season, and the Angels might well release him this winter rather than risk an arbitration hearing and a big raise.

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The situation screamed out for a sacrifice bunt, but Dodger Manager Jim Tracy must have had the mute button on.

The Dodgers had runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the second inning of a scoreless game Sunday, and No. 8 batter Alex Cora, who had two hits in his previous 22 at-bats, at the plate.

A successful bunt would have put runners on second and third with one out for Cesar Izturis, a No. 9 batter who is hitting .249 but usually makes contact.

The Angels probably would have played the infield back, a ground ball would have scored a run, and the Dodgers would have had their first lead of the series.

Instead, the .227-hitting Cora swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, Izturis struck out to end the inning and the Dodgers, who failed to mount another threat until the ninth, went on to lose, 3-1.

"I was thinking big inning, but more than that, if you bunt two guys into scoring position for Izturis and [Dave] Roberts, who isn't swinging the bat as well as he was before, what and who am I bunting them up for?" Tracy said.

"That had to do with where we were at in the lineup. I didn't feel like, knowing the kind of offensive team we were up against, playing for one run would win a game against the defending World Series champions. I might be wrong, but it made a whole lot of sense for me at the time."

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After Dodger pitcher Odalis Perez gave up Darin Erstad's two-run single in the second, pitching coach Jim Colborn came to the mound. An animated discussion ensued, but Perez wasn't upset with his pitching as he was with the positioning of the Dodger infield.

With runners on second and third, Izturis, the Dodger shortstop, was shaded toward the third-base hole. The left-handed Erstad hit a relatively slow grounder past the mound and into center field for a 3-0 Angel lead.

"That was a perfect pitch, a ground ball to shortstop, and we were in the wrong position," Perez said. "Erstad likes to pull the ball. Why we move our shortstop toward third base, I don't know."

*

The Angels sold out all three games of the weekend series and remain hopeful that they can outdraw the Dodgers for the first time in franchise history.

The Dodgers are averaging 37,338 fans this season, the Angels 36,746. But the Angels must remain in contention to challenge the Dodgers at the gate, and even that might not be enough, because Edison Field seats 45,000 and Dodger Stadium 56,000.

*

Dodger first baseman Fred McGriff was eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday but remained sidelined because of a strained right groin. With an off day today, the Dodgers wanted to give the 39-year-old two more days to recover. Tracy was "hopeful" McGriff would return Tuesday against San Diego.

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ANGELS ON DECK

Opponent -- Texas Rangers, four games.

Site -- Edison Field.

TV -- Channel 9 tonight and Tuesday; Fox Sports Net Wednesday and Thursday.

Radio -- KSPN (710), XKAM (950).

Records -- Angels 40-39, Rangers 31-49.

Record vs. Rangers -- 3-4.

Tonight, 7 -- Ramon Ortiz (9-5, 4.59) vs. John Thomson (4-9, 6.05).

Tuesday, 7 p.m. -- Jarrod Washburn (6-9, 4.19) vs. Ismael Valdes (6-4, 4.20).

Wednesday, 7 p.m. -- John Lackey (5-7, 5.47) vs. Joaquin Benoit (3-3, 5.44).

Thursday, 7 p.m. -- Kevin Appier (6-4, 4.56) vs. Tony Mounce (0-2, 3.00).

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