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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
3 up, 3 down: A's 6, Angels 0

By Mark Saxon

ANAHEIM -- The Angels have played just 12 games and they're already six games out of first place.

Not exactly the way they drew it up. With Albert Pujols in a funk, the offense has been unreliable and even the starting pitching has only been sporadically effective. The Angels have to figure out a way out of this morass, compounded by Wednesday's lifeless 6-0 loss to the Oakland A's, or they could find themselves in an intimidating early hole.

The Good:

On strike. This isn't necessarily a good thing for the Angels, but Bartolo Colon once was an Angel. He no longer has Cy Young stuff, a la 2005, but he has reinvented himself by absolutely pounding the strike zone. Into the eighth inning, he had only thrown 20 balls out of 97 pitches. At one point, he threw 38 straight strikes. Apparently, he didn't read about how careful he's supposed to be pitching to the Angels' fearsome lineup.

Not quite magic. When Ervin Santana wasn't giving up home runs, he actually had a nice tempo and lively stuff. He sandwiched four good innings between the first and sixth, but Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run home run into the Oakland bullpen and Jonny Gomes hit a towering solo shot and that was that. Angels starters have been disappointing, for sure, but you can see signs that the rotation is coming to life.

Diving stop. Vernon Wells didn't have any hits, but he had a nice game, with signs of life. He smashed a ball to left field, but Gomes happened to be standing right there. He also made a diving catch of a sinking Cespedes liner to center in the fifth. Wells' offensive struggles seem easier to take when he's playing solid defense, particularly when he's in center field, a premium position he once mastered.

The Bad:

Drought lingers. Pujols is getting closer to that first Angels home run, for what that's worth. He fouled several balls straight back, usually a sign that a hitter is just missing pitches. He hit a fly to the warning track in center. At many stadiums, probably most, that would have been a home run. Still, Pujols has gone 49 at-bats without a home run, the longest stretch since a 107 at-bat stretch last year. He just doesn't look like himself. He hasn't walked in nine straight games and has just four RBIs for the season.

Garbage time. It's never a good sign when your closer has worked exclusively in mop-up situations. The Angels still haven't gotten Jordan Walden a save situation, fairly remarkable nearly two weeks into the season. You can't simulate the adrenaline of a high-pressure ninth inning and Walden struggled, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks, and throwing 31 pitches. On the other hand, he hit 101 mph with one before Mike Scioscia relieved him.

Off his game. Alberto Callaspo was a solid player for the Angels last year, leading the team in batting (.288) and on-base percentage (.366). But with playing time divided three ways at third base, Callaspo is not, apparently, adjusting well. He usually is one of the hardest players in baseball to strike out, but he went down twice against Colon and is now 4-for-26 (.153). At this point, Maicer Izturis looks like the best all-around third baseman the Angels have.