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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Rays 4, Angels 1: Three Up, Three Down

By Mark Saxon

ANAHEIM -- The Angels shook up their lineup and welcomed back their highest-paid player Tuesday, but the result was the same old lifeless performance, this one a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels have scored three runs or fewer in seven straight games and lost six of those.

The Good:

Torii's tosses. He can't make as many circus catches as he used to make as a center fielder, but Torii Hunter has found a way to impact games with his defense. Teams are testing his arm and Hunter is passing. He threw out Johnny Damon at the plate (or, at least, umpire Laz Diaz thought he did) to end Tampa's fourth inning. It was Hunter's seventh outfield assist, tying him for second-most in the majors.

Escapism. Dan Haren looked pretty calm after the Rays loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning. Then again, Haren always looks calm. He got Sean Rodriguez to pop out foul, Reid Brignac to pop out fair and Damon to hit a harmless ground ball to evade damage.

Things happened. When teams are going this bad, you have to dig hard for signs of life. Here's one: Bobby Abreu and Hunter had a decent little two-man game going at times. They combined for four of the Angels' seven hits and Hunter actually drove in a run, a rare species around here lately.

The Bad:

Range. Peter Bourjos got one night off and his absence from the outfield was obvious. Damon led off the game with a triple to left-center -- a ball that arguably could have been caught by a younger left fielder than Abreu, 37 -- and later hit an RBI double over Vernon Wells' head. Would Bourjos have had it? Hard to say, but yeah, probably.

Depth issues. The names change, but the number of outs being generated doesn't. The bottom of the Angels' lineup is a revolving quagmire. Tuesday, Mike Scioscia went with Wells (.179), Russell Branyan (.120) and Hank Conger (.232). Tomorrow, three new people will make nine or 10 outs.

Sputtering start. Pitchers aren't allowed to give up runs, particularly not in the early innings, or this team begins flopping around on the deck of the boat. Haren actually had a pretty solid outing overall, but he was unable to get his pitches into good zones early and the Rays pounded hits all over the field, scoring three times in the first four innings before Haren cruised through his last three.