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Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Erick Aybar's puzzling start

By Mark Saxon



ANAHEIM -- Wednesday night's 8-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners was one of those frustrating games that happen from time to time in a baseball season.

The Angels couldn't get the final out -- they gave up all eight runs with two outs -- and couldn't get one more clutch hit to launch themselves into their favorite time of year, interleague play. Very little about it seemed to suggest troubling trends.

There is, however, the matter of shortstop Erick Aybar's rough two-and-a-half months. For a while, it was confined to his at-bats (He's batting .219 and has a .254 on-base percentage). Now, it has begun spilling into his time in the field.

Aybar's misplay of an Ichiro Suzuki grounder in the fifth inning seemed to unravel the game for the Angels. Instead of getting through the that inning on a manageable pitch count and with a 4-2 lead (that was about to grow by two), Jerome Williams had to face four extra batters and the inning was tied by the time it was over.

"If something like that happens, I always want to pick them back up," Williams said. "I'm always confident every time I throw a pitch, whether it's a ground ball or a fly ball that somebody's going to get to it. It happens."

Generally, Angels pitchers can't complain about the defense behind them this year. With Mike Trout -- and sometimes, Peter Bourjos -- in the outfield, the Angels are as athletic as they've ever been out there. Howie Kendrick has blossomed into a premium defender and Albert Pujols is the Angels' best first baseman since Casey Kotchman left. The third basemen are more than capable.

And, at times, Aybar has been spectacular. But the letdowns have been more frequent than in his Gold Glove season in 2011, when he made 13 errors all season. He has eight barely more than one-third of the way through this season.

"He's made some incredible plays. There were a couple balls that got away from him, but that could be part of any shortstop's game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Occasionally you're going to have that ball that comes up a little bit that you don't quite get."

There's not a lot the Angels can do about it anyway. They married themselves to Aybar when they agreed to a four-year, $35 million contract extension with him in April. If only the honeymoon had lasted a little bit longer.