Scioscia not worried about offense
Angels have faltered with runners in scoring position, but manager remains patient
ANAHEIM -- It's in there somewhere, they insist.
Buried in this Los Angeles Angels lineup is the heart of a lion, they think. So, why is it beating as faintly as a mouse's right now?
Maybe it's the cycles of a season, just a short stretch of games signifying little. Maybe some guys had aberrant seasons in 2009 and they're bound to fall back to earth this year. Maybe it's somewhere in between.
The next course of action, apparently, is to do nothing. At least that was manager Mike Scioscia's feeling after watching another listless game from his team against a pitcher, Kevin Slowey, who certainly doesn't intimidate.
The Angels were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position Thursday in a 10-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins. That, piled on top of a 2-for-7 night with RISP Wednesday and a 1-for-7 outing Tuesday, makes for a grand total of 3-for-23 (.130) in the last three games of the series.
Solution: Just sit back and wait?
Scioscia's only tinkering with his lineup has been his choice of catcher and third baseman. Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis each have started one game. Otherwise, it has been the same nine guys each time out.
The lineup looked great one game and rather hapless the other three.
Scioscia said he doesn't plan on making any drastic changes after a 1-3 start caused mostly by an anemic offense.
"When you look at a lineup with Howie Kendrick hitting seventh, you've got the potential to be a pretty deep lineup. I don't think it's the personnel that's making the difference right now and I don't think it's any kind of order in the way we're going to line up," Scioscia said. "I just think some guys need to get comfortable and get into the flow of the season."
Seems reasonable enough, not getting jittery after 2 percent of your season has gone by.
"During the span of a season, these things are going to happen," Hideki Matsui said through an interpreter. "You just have to hang tight and grind it out."
Thursday was a molar-grinding evening for Angels hitters, pretty much from the first pitch. They had two on with one out in the first and didn't score. They had two on and none out in the second and scored only once.
The at-bat that stands out from that sequence was Jeff Mathis' foul pop-up with one out that stranded Kendrick at third. If he lifts the ball to an outfielder, the Angels figure to take a 2-0 lead and the night might have gone differently.
Lost in the shuffle
Joel Pineiro had a solid Angels debut, his crisp pace and his diving sinker left the Angels with no excuses other than the sputtering offense.
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Pineiro got a polite smattering of applause as he walked off the field in the seventh inning, after Scioscia replaced him with Kevin Jepsen. For a while Thursday, the Twins just beat balls into the ground, one after the next. It looked as if they were hitting fungos.
Starting with J.J. Hardy's double-play ball in the second, Pineiro got seven straight ground-ball outs. The trend was interrupted by a loud fifth inning. Backup infielder Brendan Harris smashed a high fastball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer, the big moment in a three-run inning.
In all, 13 of Pineiro's 18 outs came on the ground.
"That one mistake kind of hurt big," Pineiro said. "I felt fine. I felt good, so just keep on throwing it."
A guy seated in the 13th row behind home plate chanted, "Over-rated!" when reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer batted in the seventh inning.
Pineiro is one of many who wasn't buying that argument for a second. Coming into Thursday night, Mauer was 13-for-18 (.722) against the Angels right-hander. Only one other matchup in the major leagues has been as one-sided for the hitter (minimum 15 at-bats): Magglio Ordonez is 12-for-15 (.800) against Chad Durbin.
Mauer's first at-bat was a slicing double to left-center. He also walked and hit a grounder to first against Pineiro.
So, now he's hitting a lowly .700 off him.
The perfection of the Angels' bullpen went crashing into the right-field stands. Then, it went crashing into the left-field stands.
Jim Thome clubbed a three-run home run off Brian Stokes in the eighth inning, ending a streak of 11 scoreless innings from Angels relievers to start the season. Stokes is the pitcher the Angels got from the New York Mets in exchange for reserve outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.
Fernando Rodney, the ink on his two-year, $11 million contract still a tad damp, got knocked around in the ninth. Delmon Young hammered the first pitch he saw from Rodney into the Angels' bullpen for a three-run homer.
Quote of the day
"I don't know if I'd say it's fun at this point. I'm still conscious of my knees out there. Hopefully as the season progresses, it will start to be fun again." -- Matsui on his first start in the outfield since June 2008. Matsui did not have a putout. He picked up two singles and watched two home runs sail over his head.
Matt Palmer was the caulk of the Angels' pitching staff last year. He filled in gaps to keep leaks from forming. It looks as if he'll serve a similar purpose in 2010. Palmer pitched two innings of scoreless relief Tuesday and he'll come right back and make a spot start for Scott Kazmir on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics. Palmer's reward for his diligence could be a ticket to Salt Lake City. When Kazmir comes back, the Angels will need a roster spot and Palmer has an option.
The Seattle Mariners got all the buzz in the division for their offseason moves, but the young A's just beat them three times in four games. The Angels know not to take Oakland lightly. The A's usually don't stay down for long.
Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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