Los Angeles Angels: Chris Capuano
June, 23, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels took a break from dominating the National League on Saturday, pausing to play one of their least-inspiring games in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in front of a mixed crowd of 44,512 fans.
The Angels looked unfocused in the field, making three key misplays, and they were baffled for the second time in less than two weeks by soft-tossing lefty Chris Capuano. The Dodgers were able to squeeze out the narrow win despite managing just four hits.
More progress. Ervin Santana took another step forward from the one-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Had his defense been better, in fact, he might have pitched another shutout. As it was, he pitched through the eighth inning, giving up only two earned runs and four hits. He struck out 10 batters and, for the first time this year, didn't walk anybody. Between the first and sixth innings, he set down 13 straight Dodgers. With Jerome Williams likely to return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, Santana can use this time to cement his place in the rotation. He may be doing that.
Getting going. Erick Aybar may have been trying too hard to justify the four-year, $35 million contract extension he signed in April, because he was off to one of the worst starts of his career. Lately, Aybar looks more relaxed and he's picking up the pace near the bottom of the order. Aybar had two hits to continue his nine-game hitting streak, his longest this season. He's batting .441 in his last 12 games, giving the lineup a deeper look.
Ditto. Like his double-play partner, Howie Kendrick hasn't been living up to his new four-year deal, but maybe that may be gradually changing. Kendrick's slump was a bit more baffling than Aybar's, since many people consider him among the best pure hitters on the Angels' roster. Kendrick is having a modestly encouraging homestand, batting .333 with five doubles in 24 at-bats. Still, late June is arriving and Kendrick is stuck at a pedestrian .269 with just four home runs.
Good Dee, Bad 'D'. The Dodgers shortstop created all sorts of havoc in the Angels' defense, much as the Angels' speedsters try to do to other teams. Dee Gordon singled and stole second in the first inning. He advanced to third on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s tapper to Albert Pujols, whose throw hit Gordon in the back and allowed him to score. Later, Gordon sliced a ball to left and Mark Trumbo took an unusual route, letting it get over his head for a triple. Even when the Angels didn't have to rush, they made mistakes. Lumbering Juan Rivera chopped one to Maicer Izturis, who threw high to first for an error that cost the Angels a run.
Big bats, small results. The Angels' three key run producers had a quiet afternoon. Torii Hunter went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including a crushing one that failed to advance Mike Trout in the eighth inning. Albert Pujols had two soft singles, but couldn't come through with Trout at second and one out. Trumbo was 0-for-4 with a double play. Those guys, along with Trout, have been carrying the Angels for about a month. When they have a rough night, the Angels usually don't do well.
Lacking utility. Izturis has been a quite useful player for Mike Scioscia for nearly eight years, but this is the versatile infielder's worst season. Not only is he stuck in a 5-for-30 slump and batting .219, but he has occasionally even let his defense slide. He should know how slow Rivera is. After all, they were traded together to the Angels once for disgruntled outfielder Jose Guillen. Izturis is making it easy for Scioscia to go with Alberto Callaspo over him.