Angels just don't seem to have it
L.A. just can't seem to produce the plays a winner needs, evidenced by its latest loss
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's early still. A few days left in July and 59 games remaining on the schedule. But the days are starting to feel long down in Anaheim and the themes are starting to sound worn.
The Angels can't get their offense going, they're shooting themselves in the foot too often, their timing is off, their defense picks the worst moments to turn shaky
Each day that goes by sounding and looking the same brings you closer to an uncomfortable conclusion: The Angels just don't seem like a winner this year.
It was the Angels' sixth loss in seven games and the third straight since pulling the trigger on the trade for right-hander Dan Haren on Sunday.
"It was a tough night tonight," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose team fell to 52-51. "The guys in that room don't feel real proud about the way we played. We're better than we've shown for a while now, and that's what we have to stay focused on.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot a little too much tonight."
Before the game, Scioscia called a 30-minute, closed-door meeting to reinforce the offensive concepts and principles the team used to live by but have been noticeably lacking this season: aggressive baserunning, situational hitting, getting on base, getting runners into scoring position to put pressure on the defense.
The team emerged from the meeting, Scioscia said, "feeling really good about the group we have." And all night it seemed as if the team was at least making an effort to recapture its formerly distinctive style of play by taking extra bases and executing hit and runs.
Unfortunately on two occasions, that aggression backfired. In the third inning, Juan Rivera was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third on a ground ball hit to shortstop Marco Scutaro, then again in the fifth when Alberto Callaspo was called out in a controversial play at second, trying for a double on a line drive to left field.
Damaging as they might have been, Scioscia can live with mistakes born out of aggression.
It's the defensive miscues like Rivera's tortuous route to Lowrie's two-run double in the seventh inning, Jered Weaver's two-out walk to No. 9 batter Darnell McDonald (who eventually scored) in the seventh and Brian Fuentes' tardiness in covering first base on David Ortiz's infield single in the ninth that have been hurting the Angels the most.
"There were plays out there that were pretty obvious," Scioscia said when asked specifically which plays hurt the Angels the most Tuesday. "I think we had a little miscommunication on the infield, Juan didn't quite get to a ball -- but that was not an easy play -- and then obviously the tough right-side defense play at the end. We definitely opened the door a little bit for them.
"When you're not scoring runs, you're not going to absorb mistakes."
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Center fielder Torii Hunter tried to shoulder some of the blame after he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
"Right now I'm hurting the team," said Hunter, who robbed Red Sox centerfielder Mike Cameron of an extra-base hit with a leaping catch at the wall in the eighth inning. "It sucks right now."
Asked why he felt the need to take so much of the blame for the loss on himself, Hunter shrugged and said, "Why not? Take it off the other guys; put it on me."
If only the Angels' problems were confined to whose fault Tuesday's loss was.
The hole is much deeper than that though: four days left in July, 59 games left on the schedule and 8½ games to make up in the standings. Those are long odds by any measure.
"We can't focus on that," Hunter said. "We start focusing on them [the Rangers] and we're playing bad baseball offensively; how are we going to correct what's going on over here? Our main focus is not to focus on Texas, trust me.
"We have to focus in house and try to clean up what we got going on."
Scioscia gave shortstop Erick Aybar a day off Tuesday as part of a concerted effort to keep him fresh for the stretch run. Scioscia had given second baseman Howie Kendrick the day off Monday. Aybar had started the past 26 games at shortstop.
"Erick and Howie have really been grinding, and with the day game [Wednesday] and day off Thursday, this was a good time," Scioscia said.
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Joel Pineiro had his scheduled start pushed back by two days after the Angels inserted the newly acquired Haren into the lineup Monday. Pineiro (10-7, 4.18 ERA) is coming off a rough start in New York in which he gave up six runs and 11 hits in a 10-6 loss to the Yankees on July 21. He was a hard-luck loser against the Red Sox on May 5 in Boston, giving up only two runs in six innings of a 3-1 loss.
The Red Sox will send Josh Beckett (1-1, 6.66 ERA) to the mound for only the 10th time this season. Beckett looked sharp against the Seattle Mariners last week, giving up five hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings, his first game back after missing two months because of a back injury.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngles.com. Follow her on Twitter.