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Monday, August 15, 2011
Angels fighting a sinking feeling

By Mark Saxon


Monday night's 8-4 loss to the Texas Rangers was about continuity. The Rangers continued to get their late-season roll on and the Angels continued to spring more leaks than they have plugs.

"It's that point of the year where it's put up or shut up time," said Angels catcher Bobby Wilson.

All, of course, is not lost. Yet. Though the Angels slipped five games back -- the furthest they've been from the top of the AL West in nearly a month -- they play six of their next 11 games against Texas. Recent history has shown that one side rarely dominates for long in this little rivalry.

But losses -- five in the last six games -- aren't the only thing the Angels have to worry about now. Suddenly, their pitching is more top-heavy than they're comfortable with. Rookie Garrett Richards' groin injury, which seems certain to send him to the disabled list, forced the Angels to use four relievers for multiple innings Monday and will require them to call up two new arms from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, manager Mike Scioscia said.

Then, there's the hole he leaves at the back end of their rotation. The most likely guy to claim the spot, Joel Pineiro, has a 5.34 ERA and just got yanked from the rotation about 10 days ago after four miserable starts. He's had a couple of good outings in mop-up duty since then, but is this the guy who's going to fuel a championship-caliber rotation? Maybe, if he pitches like he did last year and occasionally this year. No shot if he pitches like he did two weeks ago.

The Angels figure to need five strong starters, and three dominant ones, because Texas has them beat in virtually every other area of the game: relief pitching and hitting, particularly.

"As you keep struggling with some things and playing inconsistent baseball, that opportunity narrows, so you have to pick it up and play," Scioscia said. "That's what we're going to focus on."

It's about pitching because that's what it's always about with this team. The next guy to try to save this season is another rookie, Tyler Chatwood, who has one win in his last seven starts. The Angels haven't scored a single run while he was in the game in seven of his eight losses.

Good luck, kid. Oh, and try to save the bullpen while you're at it.