O's Anderson sheds cuffs in grand style

Sidelight

Shackled by lefties, his slam drives Angels series win

May 29, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- What supposedly is an everyday weakness became the means for one of the season's most uplifting successes Thursday night. Center fielder Brady Anderson shed his label of being handcuffed against left-handed pitching by reaching Anaheim Angels reliever Mike Magnante for a seventh-inning grand slam. A night that started ominously ended grandly as the Orioles rode Anderson's home run to a 6-3 victory and a series win.

The breakthrough was a significant one for Anderson, who hit only .179 and three of 18 home runs against left-handers last season.

Entering his at-bat against Magnante, the Orioles' leadoff hitter was batting only .188 with 10 strikeouts in 32 at-bats against left-handers.

Still, manager Ray Miller said he entertained no thoughts of pinch hitting right-handed hitter Jeff Conine for Anderson.

"Maybe if it had been someone else [pitching]," Miller said. "But not that guy."

"It's a pretty small sampling to draw any conclusions from," said Anderson, whose slam left him with nine RBIs in 33 at-bats against left-handed pitching. "I think you need to take a broader look later in the season. I know I can hit left-handed pitching. We just haven't seen much of it."

Miller has reacted well to Anderson's recent exploits, which include a greater willingness to accept walks as well as a greater capacity to hit to all fields.

During last season's frustration, Anderson received consistent criticism for his inability to deal with left-handed pitching; however, a strained shoulder coupled with a sore neck forced Anderson into bad habits that stayed with him all season. Rather than stay on pitches, he frequently pulled off, leaving himself easy prey against any left-hander who could exploit the outer half of the plate.

Anderson has so far avoided the nagging injuries that have plagued him most of the past two seasons.

Entering last night's series opener against the Oakland A's, Anderson had scored in 14 of the Orioles' last 17 games and walked 20 times in the the last 19 games. Anderson also had scored 25 runs in the last 26 games.

"He's played well, especially since the Texas series [earlier this month]," said Miller.

Anderson's performance was one of several keys to Thursday's win. Starting pitcher Juan Guzman nearly walked his way to a first-inning hook before struggling through six innings. Anderson's slam put him in line for his second win in 10 starts while preserving the bullpen for this weekend's series.

"He's hard to read when he's not throwing strikes," said Miller, hardly pleased with Guzman's thrill ride. "You look up and he's walking people and not backing up bases and you get frustrated with him. Then you look up in the sixth inning and he's given up one run, so you say he battled."

"I was wild," said Guzman, who walked six and allowed three hits. "But I have experience. I'm not going to give up just because I'm wild. I didn't pitch my best today, but I made pitches when I needed to."

The night's final success belonged to Mike Timlin, overlooked by Miller for Wednesday's save but allowed to pitch the eighth and ninth inning to protect a three-run lead Thursday.

Timlin replaced Mike Fetters following Mo Vaughn's home run and Randy Velarde's run-scoring single that whittled the lead to three runs. It was also the only hit by an Angels' right-handed hitter during the three-game series.

Velarde immediately ran into a double play on Darin Erstad's pop to shallow left field and Timlin struck out Troy Glaus to end the threat.

"He's a ground ball pitcher. I think he got a little caught up, a little pressured, because he failed a couple times," Miller said of Timlin. "He's a sinkerball pitcher. I've still got the article at home from spring training where he said, `I'm not your conventional short man. I'm better at 92 and 93 with sinkers.' I reminded him of that and we worked on the side twice."

"I wasn't really down on myself mentally," Timlin said. "I wasn't in the best mood after the last time [Saturday's blown save against the Rangers]. It's short-term memory. It's gone."

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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