Backing up, with no place to go

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
11:08
PM PT
It's kind of pathetic, isn't it?

The Boston Red Sox seem intent on allowing a pennant race to rev up behind them and all they get is silence when they turn around. The Angels, like the Tampa Bay Rays, just can't get in gear to make this wild-card thing interesting.

Frustrating? You want to talk about frustrating? Try having something so plump and delicious dangled right in front of your nose, then not having the strength in your legs to carry you three feet forward to enjoy the meal. In the last eight days, the Angels have lost five games to teams that, collectively, are 37 games under .500.

While Boston has been busy imploding -- going 5-16 this month -- the Angels have been tentatively nipping at their heels, then retreating. After Friday's 3-1 loss to the Oakland A's, the Angels have gone 5-7 in their last 12 games, not exactly the way to make October magic.

"It's frustrating when you can't gain any ground. Teams lose, you can't do it," Torii Hunter said. "That's just the adrenaline, the rush of a pennant race. It's very frustrating, trust me. That's why I'm sitting backwards in my locker."

The Angels aren't hitting. Sometimes, that's because they're just not hitting. Sometimes, that's because the opposing pitcher, like Oakland's Gio Gonzalez Friday, saws the bats out from their hands with dominating stuff. Either way, it's making late September kind of a snoozefest when it could have been rollicking around here. The Angels passed 3 million fans for the ninth straight year on Friday and the team rewarded them by scoring one run, a little more air leaking out of this punctured balloon.

Now, it's desperate, desperate straits. The Angels probably can't afford to lose another game if they want to play past Wednesday. They're 3 1/2 games behind Boston with only five games left. They were eliminated from the AL West Friday, the Texas Rangers celebrating on their field nearly two hours after their game was completed.

The Angels could be eliminated from the whole shooting match later this weekend if they don't start finding ways to get guys on base and to the plate.

"We've come a long way and played well to even talk about a pennant race," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "The important thing is finishing it off."

Jered Weaver pitched into the ninth inning and saw Oakland's go-ahead run score on Maicer Izturis's error. Add that to the list of golden opportunities the Angels are squandering: another masterful performance from their ace. Now, the Angels have to weather starts from their Nos. 4 and 5 starters in this series. Things couldn't be dicier at the moment.

"Obviously, it's not where you really want to be," Vernon Wells said. "But all we can do is come out and play better than we did tonight. There's a better chance if we win than if we lose."

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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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.290 30 94 91
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 30
RBIM. Trout 94
RM. Trout 91
OPSM. Trout .934
WJ. Weaver 15
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164