Sports Angels

Josh Hamilton losing his clout in cleanup spot, and Angels lose game

Cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton has only five home runs, making him by far the least of Angels' Big Three
Mike Trout has 24 homers, Albert Pujols has 20, but Hamilton hasn't found power stroke since returning from DL

Mike Trout hit a home run for the Angels on Tuesday night. Josh Hamilton did not.

That was not the story of the game, at least not the entire story. Still, the home-run totals of the Angels' big three tell an interesting story.

Trout has 24 home runs and Albert Pujols 20, each among the top 10 in the American League.

Hamilton, the cleanup hitter, has five.

"Once he starts," Angels hitting coach Don Baylor said, "there's potentially no stopping this team."

The Angels have the second-best record in the major leagues. On Tuesday, however, Miguel Gonzalez and two relievers combined for a three-hitter to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-2 victory over the Angels.

The Angels lost consecutive games for the first time since June 15-16 and lost a home series for the first time since May 5-7.

The Angels did not get on the scoreboard until Trout's two-run homer in the eighth inning. Trout now has 76 runs batted in — second to the man who has beaten him out for the AL most-valuable-player award in each of the last two years. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers leads the league with 77 RBIs.

Hamilton served as the designated hitter for the second consecutive game, and for the third time in four games. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Hamilton had discomfort in his legs but that he expected Hamilton to return to left field Wednesday.

"He's had a little tightness we're trying to get over," Scioscia said.

That would shift the most pressing issue regarding Hamilton from the condition of his legs to the condition of his bat.

"He hasn't driven the ball out of the park in I don't know how many at-bats," Scioscia said.

That would be 65, since Hamilton's last home run on July 2.

Hamilton has homered in 2.2% of his plate appearances, below the league average. Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, who also has five home runs this year, has homered in 2.4% of his appearances.

Scioscia suggested it would be unfair to evaluate Hamilton on his five home runs, noting that he had lost 150 to 200 at-bats while on the disabled list.

"You can't just look at raw numbers," Scioscia said.

In his five years with the Texas Rangers, Hamilton's slugging percentage was .549. His slugging percentage this season is .434 — and .386 since returning from the disabled list June 3.

Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox, a singles-hitting outfielder who has one homer this season, has a .385 slugging percentage.

Scioscia and Baylor each noted how well Hamilton hit before his injury — eight games, two home runs, a .444 batting average and a .741 slugging percentage.

"He's trying to catch up," Baylor said. "What really hurt him was missing those six to eight weeks. He was in a great place then."

Baylor said he senses a turnaround coming soon and said he does not believe Hamilton has lost his power. In his last nine games, he is batting .333 with five doubles.

"When you're 38 or 39, people start looking at, 'Is he done?'" Baylor said. "He's not done. He's 33 years old. He's just going through a place where he's still trying to make adjustments."

The Angels have Trout and Pujols, so Baylor's next statement on Hamilton carried some clout.

"He can carry this club," Baylor said. "His swing is an extra-base swing.

"It's going to change. I know it is. It's not how you start. It's how you finish."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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