3 up, 3 down: A's 5, Angels 3
April, 17, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued to stagger through the early part of their schedule, blowing an eighth-inning lead and losing 5-3 to one of the more anemic teams in baseball, the Oakland A's.
In a familiar theme, the bullpen was the primary culprit, but the offense has been a disappointment so far, as well.
Command center. It seemed a bit curious when Mike Scioscia came to get the ball from Dan Haren with two on and two out in the seventh inning. Yes, Daric Barton had homered off Haren earlier in the game, but Haren had only thrown 85 pitches and Scioscia normally gives his best starters some leeway. Haren wasn't dominant (two strikeouts), but he was plenty good running at less than 100 percent against the worst lineup in the American League. Haren came right at them, throwing strikes with 74 percent of his pitches.
Peter picker. It's almost like a bonus if Peter Bourjos gets any hits. That's how much value he brings with his legs and glove. He swung the game in the middle innings by, first, leaping at the wall to take a home run away from Josh Donaldson and, second, dribbling a grounder to the shortstop to drive in the tying run a half-inning later. He's off to a slow start at the plate, but who cares when he erases everything hit to the middle of the outfield?
Turnaround time. Man, has Kendrys Morales been streaky. He tore up the Cactus League before hitting a lull at the end of spring training and he's doing the same thing in the first two weeks of the season. Morales had one hit and seven strikeouts in his previous 23 at-bats before going 5 for his last 8. He scored the go-ahead run from second on Torii Hunter's single to left though it didn't stand up.
Relief foibles. So far, Angels relievers have had three save opportunities and blown all three. Again, poor relief is threatening to send this team into an early funk. Kevin Jepsen was part of that mess last year and he's part of it again this year. He got a quick strikeout, but then walked two straight batters before giving up a pair of sharp hits to Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick. The whole thing was set in motion by Scioscia's early hook of Haren, which brought Scott Downs into the game in the seventh instead of the eighth.
The funk. It might be time to slip Erick Aybar out of the leadoff spot for a bit, perhaps even give him a day off. The shortstop is even jumpier than usual at the plate. He has four hits in his last 28 at-bats and he struck out twice, hearing a few boos in the process. Aybar's not exactly setting a bounteous table these days, batting .171 and with two walks all season. Maybe a lineout to the shortstop in his final at-bat will get him going.
The Funk. This Albert Pujols homerless streak is starting to feel like a real thing. He has never gone this long in a season without hitting a long ball. He averages one home run every 14.3 at-bats in his career and, this season, he has gone 45 at-bats without one. Then again, the former is probably more remarkable than the latter. No reason to panic, but if he hasn't hit one by the end of the week, panic. He had a 3-and-1 count in the ninth inning and hit a towering infield pop-up.