Angels hardly looking like themselves
Suddenly L.A. is watching other teams play the aggressive style it had perfected
ANAHEIM -- There were times Friday night when it looked as if the teams had traded uniforms.
The Oakland Athletics were running wild, forcing the Los Angeles Angels into mistakes that would have ticked off a high school coach. Remember when the Angels used to take pride in their ability to take extra bases and make the other team feel rushed and flustered?
Welcome to 2010, when, if the Angels aren't careful, they just might be on the other end of those lessons. Early returns suggest they might be the least athletic team in their division. The Angels have certainly looked slow and unsteady lately.
Manager Mike Scioscia took a wait-and-see approach for a few games. After watching the Angels make three errors -- only a taste of the slop Friday -- in a 10-4 loss to Oakland, Scioscia sounded a bit more emphatic. The 1-4 start is the worst since two name changes ago, when they were the California Angels back in 1992. If they lose Saturday, they'll be off to their worst start since the franchise's inaugural year, 1961. Looking like the early years of an expansion team doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
"We've played four [bad] games," Scioscia said. "That's the best way I can put it, in every aspect. And we're better than that. We will play better baseball than that and it's tough to swallow, because we're a better team than that."[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Chris CarlsonStarting pitcher Matt Palmer was one of several Angels to make an error in a 10-4 loss to Oakland on Friday.
It was a carousel of mistakes Friday, one only hinted at by the official errors.
Catcher Jeff Mathis dropped a one-hop throw from Juan Rivera -- and took a hard shot from Daric Barton anyway -- to let a run score on what should have been an out in the first inning. The A's took extra bases on Torii Hunter twice, including on Rajai Davis' chopper up the middle in the second inning.
Rivera took a comically poor route to Barton's first-inning double, and pitcher Matt Palmer dropped a ball while covering first, a gaffe that opened the door for a couple of A's runs. Howie Kendrick had an error. At times, it seemed as if the only guy paying attention on defense was Brandon Wood, and he has one hit in 16 at-bats this year.
Oakland's team picture used to be of a bunch of burly guys in white shoes. The A's used to run as well as the average offensive line. Now, they take extra bases relentlessly, lay down bunts and pressure defenses into mistakes. Sound like any team you used to know?
"I'm sure everyone was surprised," Palmer said. "We're not trying to give up extra bases. We're playing just as hard as everybody else, so there's really nothing to say. They took them. They were just overaggressive tonight."
The offense, meanwhile, has been a mess since opening night. For three games, the Angels couldn't find a hit when it mattered. On Friday they could barely scrounge one at all. Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez -- who won Oakland's fifth-starter competition when the other guy, Trevor Cahill, got hurt this spring -- shut them down into the seventh inning.
Quote of the day
"We could have been playing a Triple-A team these last couple of nights and would have lost." -- Scioscia
By the numbers
Hideki Matsui, a left-handed hitter, has always had a freakish ability to hit left-handed pitchers exactly as well as he hits right-handers. In his career, he is batting .294 versus lefties and .292 versus righties.
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The Angels already have seen up-close how comfortable he is against lefties. In his first three at-bats against them, he hit two home runs. He took Minnesota reliever Jose Mijares deep on opening night, and he homered off Oakland's Gonzalez in his first at-bat Friday.
Jered Weaver (1-0, 4.50 ERA) has a chance to cement his status as the team's ace by ending a four-game losing streak. The big right-hander accepted the inaugural Nick Adenhart award as the team's best pitcher of 2009 before Friday night's game. He got the Angels off to a good start on opening night with six solid innings.
Weaver has been good against Oakland in the past. He has given up only two earned runs over his past three starts versus Oakland. He'll oppose A's ace Ben Sheets, who pitched well in a no-decision on Opening Day.
Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.