OAKLAND — Forks and knives scraping plates were all that broke the silence in the Angels clubhouse Friday night after a 6-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics dropped them 11 games back in the American League West.
It has become an all-too-familiar soundtrack on the days Jerome Williams and Joe Blanton pitch, the struggles of the right-handers this month preventing the Angels from putting together a win streak that might put a dent in the A's division lead.
Williams gave up four runs and five hits in the first two innings in the Oakland Coliseum on Friday night, and though he blanked the A's for the next three innings, the Angels couldn't dig out of the early hole, their ninth-inning comeback falling short when Josh Hamilton struck out with a runner on first to end the game.
The Angels are very tough to beat when ace Jered Weaver, who is 4-1 with a 1.32 earned-run average in his last six starts, and left-hander C.J. Wilson, who is 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his last eight starts, are on the mound.
But Williams and Blanton have made it impossible for the Angels to sustain any kind of momentum. Williams is 0-4 with a 12.50 ERA in five July starts, and Blanton went 0-3 with an 8.84 ERA in four July starts before being demoted to the bullpen this week.
"You need five guys, and at times when we've had a little deeper look with some guys throwing the ball better, we started to put some things together," said Manager Mike Scioscia.
"But it's tough to build momentum without the starting five doing what it can do. We need these guys to give us a chance to win when they take the ball, and at times it's been a little spotty."
The Angels got off to a great start Friday when J.B. Shuck led off the first with an infield single and Mike Trout crushed a two-run homer to left off A's starter Bartolo Colon, who threw a four-hit shutout in Anaheim last Sunday.
But Colon (14-3, 2.54 ERA) blanked the Angels on five hits over the next five innings, relievers Ryan Cook (seventh) and Sean Doolittle (eighth) threw scoreless innings, and closer Grant Balfour survived a harrowing ninth for his 27th save.
With a 6-2 lead, A's left-hander Jerry Blevins walked Chris Iannetta and Tommy Field. On came Balfour, whose streak of 44 consecutive saves was snapped Tuesday.
Shuck popped out, and Trout struck out. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and Albert Pujols hit a two-run single to left to make it 6-4, but Balfour blew a chest-high 93-mph fastball by Hamilton for a game-ending strikeout.
Williams (5-7) gave up a solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the first and was one out away from a scoreless second when Eric Sogard hit a run-scoring single to tie the game, 2-2.
Coco Crisp singled to center, Sogard taking third, and after Crisp stole second, Lowrie grounded a two-run single to right for a 4-2 lead. Oakland added insurance in the sixth on Stephen Vogt's two-run homer off reliever Michael Kohn.
"I didn't execute a couple of pitches and got hurt by them," Williams said. "It's been a tough month, but all I can do is try to feed off the positives and throw away the negatives."
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