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Sparks Flies In Angels Win

Any win would be exciting for the Anaheim Angels these days. Steve Sparks took it to another level Sunday night, taking a no-hitter against the Twins into the seventh inning.

"I started to think about it after the fifth. It makes the game more exciting," said Sparks, who settled for eight innings of two-hit ball and a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

The no-hit bit ended quickly in the seventh, as Terry Steinbach lined Sparks' first pitch of the inning into center.

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  • "First and foremost, we were still up by one run," said Sparks, leading 1-0 at that point. "I tried to get hitters out. Hopefully we can pull something positive out of this, because it's been a gut-wrenching season."

    Darin Erstad provided most of the offense against brilliant rookie Joe Mays, and Troy Percival retired all three men he faced for his 24th save as the Angels won for the second time in 16 games.

    Both wins were started by Sparks.

    "He pitched a good game. He really kept our hitters off balance," said Mays, who lost despite lowering his ERA to 1.86 in nine starts since leaving the Twins' bullpen.

    Sparks gave up one other hit a single by Chad Allen and an unearned run in the eighth.

    "Sparks changed speeds pretty good," Minnesota manager Tom Kelly said. "But some of our people had horrendous at-bats. Like they'd never seen a knuckleball pitcher."

    Sparks (5-7) breezed through the first six innings, throwing only 66 pitches, 46 of them strikes. He fiished with three strikeouts and three walks.

    "A lot of guys' futures on this team are up in the air, myself included," Sparks said. "Hopefully, I can make a positive showing the last couple of months."

    As a symptom of the Angels' free-fall, Percival, arguably the most reliable closer in the American League, picked up his first save since July 9. Furthermore, it came in only his second save opportunity since.

    Mays (4-4) gave up only two runs and seven hits in his second complete game of the season. He had allowed only two earned runs in his previous three starts, covering 25 1-3 innings.

    Troy Glaus' RBI single scored Erstad, who had singled before stealing second, to give the Angels a 1-0 lead in the second. Erstad made it 2-0 with his ninth homer in the seventh.

    Minnesota scored in the eighth after loading the bases on Allen's single, a walk to pinch-hitter Marty Cordova and Glaus' error on pinch-hitter Torii Hunter's grounder to third. Denny Hocking's sacrifice fly then scored Allen.

    Sparks flirted with a no-hitter for the second time this season. On May 29, he held the Kansas City Royals hitless for 5 1-3 innings before Carlos Febles doubled.

    The Twins got three complete games from their starting pitchers in the series. Brad Radke and Eric Milton pitched complete-game victories for Minnesota in the first two games.

    It was the first time Twins starters turned in three straight complete games since September 25-27, 1985, when the names were Bert Blyleven, Mike Smithson, and Frank Viola.


  • Plans for Jim Edmonds to come off the DL and DH for the Angels were scrubbed when he felt a twinge in his left side Saturday night during his rehab work with Class A Lake Elsinore. Edmonds has missed the whole season following shoulder surgery during spring training.
  • Mo Vaughn's fourth-inning single for Anaheim was his first hit in 12 at-bats.
  • Since allowing 32 earned runs in 50 innings as a reliever, Mays has allowed 12 runs in 58 innings as a starter.
  • Tim Belcher (fractured right little finger) threw too many pitches in a Friday simulated game, so Mike Fyhrie will start for the Angels Tuesday night against Kansas City. Belcher stays on the DL for now.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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