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Feat puts Shields on a short list

June 22, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Reliever Scot Shields became the third pitcher in Angels history to strike out four batters in one inning when he whiffed pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard in the eighth inning Saturday night.

Victorino swung and missed at a vicious breaking ball in the dirt that bounced past catcher Jeff Mathis and allowed the Phillies center fielder to reach first.

Trying to protect a 4-2 lead, Shields then walked No. 3 hitter Pat Burrell on four pitches to bring up Howard, the cleanup batter who entered with 19 homers and 63 runs batted in.

But Shields got ahead of Howard and struck him out on a nasty, 1-and-2 breaking ball to end the inning, his four strikeouts tying a feat accomplished by Chuck Finley, who did it twice in 1999, and Ryne Duren, who did it in 1961. It was the 51st time in major league history a pitcher struck out four batters in an inning.

"That's never happened to me before," said Shields, who hasn't given up a run in 12 1/3 innings over his last 12 appearances. "But I'm not going to get away with stuff like that too often, bringing up Ryan Howard in that situation."

Coming on strong

Kelvim Escobar continues to amaze in his recovery from a shoulder tear. The right-hander's fastball hit 93 mph during a 30-pitch simulated game in Arizona on Saturday, and he is expected to pitch in an Arizona Summer League game this week.

"His velocity was terrific, which is very encouraging," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We expected him to get there, but it's a pleasant surprise that the first time out of the box, the ball came out of his hand that well. He's ready for a game."

Escobar, who was so distraught after a spring-training setback he worried his career might be over, expects to return as a reliever, but the Angels haven't ruled out a return to the rotation.

With Nick Adenhart struggling at triple A (5-6, 4.66 earned-run average), the Angels are short on starting pitching depth.

Early departure

Shortstop Maicer Izturis, who has hit .378 (28 for 74) with 12 runs batted in over his last 18 games, was pulled in the second inning of Saturday's game because of tightness in his right hamstring, an injury he suffered stealing second base in the first.

The switch-hitter sat out 13 weeks of the 2006 and 2007 seasons because of hamstring problems and was sidelined for two weeks in late April and May because of a lower-back strain, but Scioscia doesn't think this injury will send him to the disabled list.

"It loosened up after he came out," Scioscia said. "He's day to day, but it doesn't look like it's too bad."


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