Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Los Angeles Angels [Print without images]

Friday, September 16, 2011
Orioles 8, Angels 3: Three Up, Three Down

By Mark Saxon

It may have been the last straw in the Angels' playoff push.

Dan Haren struggled and the Angels dropped a game they might not be able to overcome, 8-3 against the last-place Baltimore Orioles Friday night. The Angels have just 12 games left, six on this road trip, and trailed the first-place Texas Rangers by four games entering Texas' night game in Seattle.

If the Angels were to charge back at this point, it would be the greatest comeback in American League history.

The Good:

Bunt-fest. The Angels don't walk a lot, but they are capable of getting on base without swinging the bats. Bobby Abreu and Erick Aybar each bunted their way on for base hits. The Angels lead the majors in both infield hits and bunt hits. That's the kind of offense this is.

Conger clout. Any time a catcher produces offensively, it's a shocking development on this team. Youngster Hank Conger has had an uneven season, especially defensively. But he clearly is the only catcher on the roster capable of doing damage with his bat. He provided two-thirds of the Angels' offense with a two-run ninth inning home run. It was Conger's sixth home run.

Torii's pace. It wasn't long ago that Torii Hunter was batting .232 and he looked like a lock to have his worst full season in the majors. But his consistency since then has been startling. After two more hits, Hunter now is batting .262. He hit .423 in August and he's batting .389 this month.

The Bad:

Haren reverts. That shutout against the New York Yankees last start now looks like an anomaly. Haren has not been at his best in the past couple of months. He tends to struggle in the second half and you wonder whether teams just burden him with too many innings, because of his history of durability. In a big spot, Haren couldn't get his pitches in good spots and the Orioles teed off on him for seven runs in five innings.

Frustration unbounded. After strikeouts nowadays, Vernon Wells looks like he doesn't know what to do with himself. After one Friday, he looked like he wanted to slam the bat off the plate, but thought better of it and recoiled at the last minute. This guy could just never get out of the early hole he dug himself and his abysmal season has gone a long way toward explaining why the Angels came up short.

Easy outs. If you're going to play small ball, it helps to do it well. After Abreu reached base in the fourth inning, Torii Hunter swung through a hit-and-run and Abreu was out by 10 feet at second base. It was a fairly pivotal momentum swing, as the Angels were trying to fight back from a 2-0 hole.