ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The question had nothing to do with pitching. In fact, the words "pitching" or "pitcher" were never uttered when I simply asked Angels outfielder Torii Hunter why the team has struggled to find any kind of consistency this month.
"I can't talk about that," Hunter said. "I will never talk about my pitchers."
Fair enough, but I never said anything about pitchers. So pitchers aside, why hasn't the team been able to win back-to-back games in August?
"I don't want to talk about that one," Hunter said. "I can't do that."
It was one of the few times the gregarious and outspoken Hunter was left speechless and forced into the unfamiliar territory of giving a no-comment not once, but twice.
Hunter is the one of the few players in the Angels' clubhouse who sidesteps the regular canned quotes and clichés and speaks his mind. And even though I never asked him about pitching, he simply could not answer why the Angels have struggled this month because he knew that would force him to talk about something he promised himself early in his career he never would.
His smile, however, said it all. The answer is so clearly on the field and in the box scores that there is no real need for him to point it out.
The Angels' pitching this month hasn't just been bad, it has been historically horrendous.
The staff ERA in August is 6.67, which is easily the worst in all of baseball. Next up is the Colorado Rockies at 5.93, and they are currently in a heated race with Houston for the worst record in baseball this season.
During the Angels’ recent 10-game trip, the relievers posted a 10.54 ERA with five losses and five blown saves. During that time they also gave up 32 runs and 41 hits in 27.1 innings, including 11 home runs.
During Saturday’s 7-4 loss to Seattle, Dan Haren had his shortest start since his rookie year in 2003. Haren’s line was cringe-worthy: 3.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 7 runs (5 earned), 3 walks, 0 strike outs, 1 home run and a 4.68 ERA.
The Angels have now lost seven of their past 10 and are just 12-16 since the All-Star break. They haven't won back-to-back home games against a single opponent since July 7-8, when they beat Baltimore.
There's plenty of blame to go around when a team struggles this mightily, but it's not hard to pinpoint the heart of that frustration when you look at some of the box scores this month.
In losses to Texas and Chicago to start the month, the Angels scored 10, nine and six runs. They scored eight runs in Wednesday's loss to Oakland, and before they could even get to the bottom of the fourth inning Saturday, they were trailing by seven runs. Saturday's loss came on the heels of Friday night, when the Angels came back from a 5-0 hole to win the game, 6-5.
On paper, there's plenty of punch in the Angels' lineup with Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Kendrys Morales, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, Vernon Wells and Hunter. Then again, there's also plenty of talent, on paper anyway, in the Angels' rotations so that the team shouldn't have to score double-digit runs to win a game.
Unfortunately for the Angels this season, few things on paper have played out as they should have on the field.
The only pitcher remotely playing up to his potential (and his contract) this season has been Jered Weaver, who is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young. Most of the others (C.J. Wilson, Haren, Ervin Santana and even newly acquired Zack Greinke) have failed to find any kind of consistency.
It still made no sense to Angels manager Mike Scioscia as he looked at his roster after the game Saturday night.
"We've been peeling the paint off some things trying to figure out how to get some guys back on track," Scioscia said. "The ingredients are still there for us to reach our goal, but we're at a point now where we need production."