3 up, 3 down: Rays 3, Angels 2
April, 25, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
If the Angels haven't reached rock bottom, this season is going to feel endless.
The hitting slump continued in a 3-2 loss Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Rays, the latest pitcher to dominate them being 2011 rookie of the year Jeremy Hellickson. The Angels have lost three games in a row and six of their last eight.
Less than three weeks into the season, they're already 8 1/2 games out of first place and floundering in last place.
Coaching tree. Imagine if Mike Scioscia still had Joe Maddon on his staff. One of the brighter, more free-thinking minds in baseball, Maddon worked for the Angels for three decades. The Rays manager used his scouting reports to his advantage as usual by employing infield shifts on three of the Angels' key hitters. Other teams see what everybody who watches this team sees: They're trying to pull balls and hit home runs. It's not working.
Sweet stroke. Torii Hunter seems to be the only Angels hitter taking what the pitcher is giving him and having consistently good at-bats. He was 2-for-4 and did his best to spark a late rally by singling through the right side leading off the ninth inning against erratic (in 2011) closer Fernando Rodney. The rally fizzled, which is a common refrain these days.
Going strong. Nobody is pulling harder trying to get this team on track than two starting pitchers, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. They have both been brilliant through their first four starts. Wilson, however, has suffered from minimal run support lately. He struck out 11 Rays and deserved to get the win.
Historic skid. This Albert Pujols slump is now the worst of his career. He has gone five straight games without a hit, only the second time in his career he has done that. And, yes, the homer-less streak goes on, now 72 at-bats. The last time he went this long without a hit? In his rookie season, 2001. The Angels can only hope he recovers as well as he did that year, or even last year, because they're not going anywhere without him. He is batting .222, struck out twice Wednesday and has four RBIs all season.
Wild man. Jason Isringhausen has been a pleasant surprise in the bullpen, but the 39-year old will find his stay short if he follows the Rodney plan (from 2011): walking people. He walked four Rays to force in a run, which proved to be the margin of victory for Tampa Bay. Not exactly what you're looking for from a reliever.
Pressure points. This team seems to be having trouble handling stress. With the pressure on, it seems to grow tight and perform at its worst. Hitting with runners on base has been the main problem all year, never more than Wednesday when the Angels went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Scioscia or one of the team leaders needs to find a way to lighten the mood, because right now the Angels look tight and uncomfortable. It's hard to watch.