Friday, September 2, 2011
Letting it slip away
By Mark Saxon
Friday night in Anaheim had all the crackling energy of a Tuesday afternoon trip to the hardware store.
The AL West might be the hottest pennant race baseball has to offer this year, but that's not looking like a ringing endorsement for September baseball. More than 37,000 people showed up at Angel Stadium for what turned out to be a 13-5 Minnesota Twins victory. Few of them could have left the place with much hope for the Angels in 2011.
Maybe it was because Jered Weaver wasn’t in the building. His start was bumped back one day so he could attend his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon. Weaver's replacement, youngster Tyler Chatwood, took all the air out of the place with another wild inning, the Twins taking four walks and scoring five times in the fourth.
It went on like that pretty much all night. The Angels walked in four runs, the first time they've done that since divisional play began in 1969. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't sound like what you do when you're angling for the playoffs.
"We had a tough night tonight on the mound," was how Mike Scioscia put it.
By the latter innings, the only enthusiasm Angels fans could muster was funneled into boos for struggling veterans Vernon Wells and Fernando Rodney.
Had they been in the building, they might have booed when Scioscia posted his lineup at about 3:30 p.m. on the clubhouse wall, too. How on Earth, with the Angels desperately trying to keep pace with Texas, can he justify playing Bobby Abreu and leaving this month’s most dynamic offensive force on the bench?
Mike Trout has batted .357, mashed four home runs, scored 10 times and accounted for seven RBIs in just 28 at-bats since he got called back up from Double-A. And Abreu? When somebody asked Scioscia before the game about Abreu’s season, the first word he said was “struggled.”
Abreu's lack of production has gotten bad enough that Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher have urged him to go to a lighter, smaller bat in an effort to speed up his swing. The 37-year old -- who, by the way, is under contract for $9 million in 2012 -- batted .200 with a .244 on-base percentage in August. One thing about Abreu: He’s always been an on-base machine, but it’s harder to walk when pitchers don’t respect the damage your bat can do.
Here’s the easiest way to break down the Trout-Abreu-Wells daily lineup decision: The Angels have lost the last five games Abreu has started. Will Scioscia continue this general loyalty to veterans even as his team sputters to a standstill at his feet?
The Angels, 4 ½ games behind Texas now, haven’t quite stalled out on the side of the highway, but they look like they’re reaching for the hazard lights.