Commentary

Scioscia annoyed by sloppy play

Angels lack some fundamentals in loss to Dodgers as they continue chasing Rangers

Updated: June 25, 2010, 10:16 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After watching his team lose its sixth straight game with a string of embarrassing mistakes on the bases Wednesday night, Joe Torre's patience started showing some cracks.

It took one game to turn Mike Scioscia's stomach. Maybe it's contagious. Maybe that's how bad this one was. Both Los Angeles teams fumbled the ball and floundered around the bases for the past two nights at Angel Stadium. A 10-6 loss -- rife with fundamental mistakes -- on Thursday had Scioscia feeling a bit ill-tempered afterward.

"We didn't play well in a lot of areas," Scioscia said. "Obviously, we made some outs on the bases, but we didn't pitch well, we really didn't play the kind of defense we needed to play and we were looking up from the wrong end all night."

Other than that -- and the four hours of everyone's life it sucked out of the air -- Thursday was a gem. Normally, a team that has played .714 baseball for the last month, as the Angels have, wouldn't dwell too much on a game filled with madcap antics. But this is a sketchy moment for the Angels with the Texas Rangers having run off 11 straight wins.

Jamey Carroll
AP Photo/Gus RuelasBobby Abreu was caught stealing on this play and he also had a baserunning gaffe in the ninth inning.

Things stay slippery this weekend, when the Angels play the competitive Colorado Rockies while the Rangers get three more against the doormats of Texas, the Houston Astros. The Angels now are 4 1/2 games out of first place. They haven't been this far out of touch since they started that hot streak on May 26, so they're hoping that all of that work doesn't get erased in a matter of days.

While reliever Trevor Bell was warming up to enter the game in the seventh inning, a bank of stadium lights down the right-field line went dark. The umpires decided there wasn't enough light to continue, so they pulled the teams off the field. After an 18-minute delay, they resumed play in exactly the same, slightly dimmed conditions.

For most of the game, it looked as if both teams were running the bases in the dark.

Everything stupid that could be done on the bases was done Thursday night. Probably the capper was Bobby Abreu trying to take third base on a ball that squirted away from catcher Russell Martin -- with the Angels trailing by four runs in the ninth inning.

Abreu has one of the higher baseball IQs around, but he and his teammates looked as if they stopped somewhere for happy hour before the game. For two nights running, it was a series of bumbling, ill-timed mistakes on the bases.

The Dodgers' Jamey Carroll thought he was out in the third inning, so he strayed off the bag -- and then he was out. Brandon Wood got picked off by Jeff Weaver in the sixth and Reggie Willits waited too long to break for home. The Angels ran into two outs in the first; Abreu and Torii Hunter were each thrown out trying to steal.

The Angels were seeing pitcher Scott Kazmir gradually pull himself together after a sloppy start to his season. He had shaved more than two runs off his ERA in the last six weeks and won four of his last five starts. Even as he was taking steps forward, though, Kazmir wasn't the pitcher who once dominated good AL lineups in his early 20s.

He has managed to pitch only as many as seven innings twice this season, which came in back-to-back mid-May starts. He once touched 95 mph. These days, he brushes up against 90 some nights. He used to throw a devastating slider. These days, he can rarely throw a serviceable breaking ball.

"When you're fastball-dominant and you're missing spots with it, good hitters are going to eventually catch up to it," Scioscia said.

Kazmir (7-6) couldn't have been much more wobbly on Thursday. He dodged trouble in the second by striking out No. 9 hitter Reed Johnson on a changeup in the dirt, but he couldn't put key hitters away in the fourth. The most ringing shot was Rafael Furcal's double into the left-field corner, but it was messy long before that. Kazmir walked a batter. He hit James Loney with an 0-and-2 pitch.

"You're just asking for not a good outcome if you let guys on like that," Kazmir said.

Scene and heard

Ever wonder what the dozens of Japanese reporters who follow Hideki Matsui write about when Matsui isn't a factor? On Thursday, they had a nice little story line after Japan defeated Denmark to advance to the Round of 16 at the World Cup.

The star of that match was Keisuke Honda, who attended the same high school as Matsui in the city of Ishikawa. Honda is 12 years younger than Matsui and the two have never met. That didn't stop the Japanese press corps from gathering around Matsui before Thursday night's game.

Minor matters

Trevor Reckling entered this season as the Angels' top pitching prospect, but the young left-hander has struggled with the jump to Triple-A. After another poor outing -- eight runs in less than five innings -- on Tuesday, the Angels demoted Reckling to Double-A.

Reckling was 4-7 with an 8.53 ERA for Triple-A Salt Lake. He was 8-7 with a 2.93 ERA last year at Double-A Arkansas.

Reckling still has plenty of time to revive his career: He turned 21 just last month.

Quote of the day

"When the lights went out, it was OK to play, but [umpire] Tim Welke wanted to give the lights a chance to come back on. We thought it might be 10 minutes. Obviously, it's a long 10 minutes because they're not on yet." -- Scioscia on an 18-minute delay when a bank of lights went out.

Looking ahead

The Angels play their final interleague series against the Colorado Rockies beginning with Friday night's game. The Angels have dominated the Rockies in recent meetings, winning nine of the past 12 games. The Angels get a break since Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez pitched Wednesday and won't appear this weekend. Jimenez probably will start for the National League in the All-Star Game at Angel Stadium on July 13. The Angels will face left-hander Jeff Francis (2-2, 3.43 ERA) on Friday. Jered Weaver (7-3, 3.04) could strengthen his All-Star credentials with another solid outing. His 107 strikeouts lead the American League.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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