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Scioscia's patience key in beating slump

BOSTON -- In times of crisis, Mike Scioscia often does the least. Believe it or not, it's a formula that has worked for him over the years.

Aside from a series of individual meetings with players, Scioscia didn't react much to a 6-14 start in 2002, and most people in Anaheim remember that October pretty fondly.

Four years ago, the Angels stumbled to 11 games under .500 by late May. They embarrassed themselves at Dodger Stadium one weekend, getting outscored 31-7. That team looked a lot like this 2010 team has looked, broken in a lot of areas. The 2006 Angels didn't make the playoffs, but they regrouped to win 89 games. The way the American League West has looked this year, that might get the Angels in the playoffs.

Right now, this team's best option -- hard as it is for irate fans to swallow -- is to simply wait for the team they thought they had to show up. If it does, great. If not, start building toward 2011.

By the way, that might be the only option. If Scioscia were going to start making radical changes, where would he begin? The starting pitching has been awful. One of his most reliable guys, Joe Saunders, gets shelled virtually every time he's on a mound. The alternative to Saunders, Matt Palmer, was even worse Monday night while pitching in relief.

The Angels' bullpen is divided into three reliable pitchers and four guys with 6-plus ERAs. The offense has been only sporadic. In order to point fingers in the Angels' clubhouse these days, you'd have to be an octopus.

Monday night's meltdown at Fenway Park, the Angels' 17-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox, was their fourth loss in a row and only proved the problem. The problem is there are too many problems, but nary a solution in sight. That leaves Scioscia to simply hope for improvement from his players. Thus the air of resignation after Monday's pounding at the hands of, by the way, a very cold team.

"They came out and they kicked our butts, and some guys on our team are going to have to get into their games and make some adjustments," Scioscia said. "We're confident they will, but needless to say, we keep hoping for steps in the right direction and this was not one of them."

Saunders (1-5) has the worst ERA (7.04) of any starting pitcher in the AL with the exception of Kansas City's Gil Meche (9.89) and Oakland's Ben Sheets (7.12). Scioscia said he has no plans to yank Saunders from the starting rotation.


Saunders didn't exactly look like he was having a good time on the job Monday night. In the third inning, shortly after he hit Kevin Youkilis in the ribs with a fastball, he turned his head disgustedly toward the Angels' dugout after throwing a slider about a foot outside to J.D. Drew. He didn't find the answer where he was looking.

Saunders essentially has no idea why he's pitching this poorly.

"They say you have five bad ones, five good ones and the other 20 are what make you a man, when you can battle," Saunders said. "I've had one good start out of six now. It's time to have some good starts and some decent starts and, hopefully, more starts where I can keep my team in the ballgame."

Of his six outings, only one has been quality. In his past three starts, he has given up 24 hits, nine walks and 15 runs in 11 2/3 innings. In that same span, he has struck out five batters. Saunders has more walks (14) than strikeouts (13) on the year.

He doesn't look like the same guy who won 17 games and went to the All-Star Game two years ago.

Then again, few of the Angels' pitchers are living up to their résumés these days. Only two AL teams have gotten worse starting pitching than the Angels this year. When the Angels broke camp in Arizona, they figured their five-deep rotation was a strength. Maybe it will be some day, but lately it has been pulling them down.

Torii Hunter admitted he was frustrated after the Angels fell behind 5-0 when he inexplicably tried to steal second base on Clay Buchholz's first move in the fourth inning. The easy pickoff might have kept Buchholz around a few more innings and it might have cost the Angels a chance to tie the game. They wound up scoring three runs in the inning.


Is the bad starting pitching starting to force Angels hitters into doing things they shouldn't?

"It's like when you're in the corner, they box you in and you start kicking, clawing, scratching, biting, doing everything you can. That's kind of what I did," Hunter said. "I overdid it a bit."

Hunter went lightly when asked how frustrating it is to be fighting out of so many early holes. He didn't want to be publicly critical of the starting pitchers, who have a collective 4.96 ERA.

"That's a hot tamale. Those are my teammates," he said. "All cylinders are just not clicking right now, and other teams are getting the best of us, put it like that."

STARE DOWN

The Angels and Red Sox have a history of raised hackles -- most recently stemming from a Josh Beckett near-beaning of Bobby Abreu last season -- so crew chief John Hirschbeck was quick to warn both benches after Saunders hit Youkilis in the ribs in the third inning. Youkilis had hit a home run an inning earlier.

TV cameras caught Youkilis mouthing something, but Saunders said he didn't hear it.

"Maybe he was just talking to himself," Saunders said. "He knows I'm not trying to hit him there. You can't keep pitching the guy away. He's already on the plate; everybody knows this. You've got to pitch inside. Sometimes, you pull it across your body and it goes too far."

TRENDS

Maicer Izturis is the opposite of an intimidating figure when he stands at the plate. He's a 5-foot-8 middle infielder, and he has a generally mousy appearance.

But without knowing it, Buchholz had the wrong man at the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Izturis is the Angels' best clutch hitter and has been for a while.

After smoking a two-run double over Darnell McDonald's head in center field, Izturis is a lifetime .333 hitter with runners in scoring position and a .353 hitter with the bases loaded.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We got beat down, like the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley fight." -- Hunter, referring to an 89-second heavyweight bout in 1995.

LOOKING AHEAD

The way most of the Angels' starters have been pitching, now would be a good time for Ervin Santana (1-2, 4.59 ERA) to find some consistency. He has shown signs of harnessing the good stuff he flashed in spring training. The Angels have won his past three starts, and he has pitched at least six innings in four of his five starts. Santana has not typically fared well against Boston. He has one lifetime win against the Red Sox, and it came back on Aug. 20, 2005.

The Angels have to contend with Jon Lester (1-2, 4.71), who is coming off his best start of the year. He struck out 11 Blue Jays and allowed just one hit in seven innings. The Angels hit Lester a lot better than the rest of the league does. He has a lifetime regular-season ERA of 7.78 against them.