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A house built on one pillar, crumbling fast

8/18/2011

ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver couldn't afford to lose his temper for one pitch, as ill-intentioned as it may have been.

Ervin Santana couldn't afford to make a pitch to Ian Kinsler that was less-than-perfect. It was great, but it wasn't perfect. Otherwise, he wouldn't have made contact, right?

For weeks, maybe even a month, the Angels had such absurdly dominant starting pitching that you could start to believe in what may have been an impossible notion all along. In so many ways, they were not nearly as good as the Texas Rangers, but maybe their one strength was powerful enough to pull them along like a speed boat holding up a water skier.

But the rope started to fray just the tiniest bit when Weaver got suspended for throwing at Alex Avila and the back two spots in the rotation couldn't hold firm. Now, the Angels are about to hit the water hard and fast.

Santana couldn't quite bury a slider to Kinsler with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Wednesday, Kinsler got just enough wood on it to crack his bat and send it plopping into left field and, for all intents and purposes, the Angels' season seems to be over. That two-run single was the decisive blow in the decisive blow, Wednesday's 4-3 Texas win. The Angels trail Texas by seven games and a head-to-head comparison of the teams makes it seem as if that deficit should be at least 15.

"He pitched his heart out," was how Angels manager Mike Scioscia described Santana's effort.

Wednesday was the perfect illustration of why offensive depth figured to sink this team all along. Scioscia finally found a middle of the order that could make even a strong starting pitcher, like the Rangers' C.J. Wilson, pay attention. But once Wilson got past Mark Trumbo, it was as if he could just get on with the business of buzzing through the lineup and getting his seven innings in.

Vernon Wells has figuratively disappeared, the catchers may as well not bring bats to the dugout and any continuity disappears before it can form because -- most nights -- the Angels have only two or three hitters swinging confident bats.

"Depth in our lineup has definitely been an issue this year," Scioscia said. "We've tried different combinations to lengthen it and get it deeper. ... We were shut down for a while. After the first inning, I don't know that we had a guy in scoring position [until the ninth inning]."

The surprising part about this series has been the Angels' poor defense. It has been a strength all season and occasionally has been balletic. But it has been unfocused and wobbly in these three crucial games. Just add one more burden this pitching staff has been asked to shoulder and, ultimately, might not have the legs for.