Mike Scioscia says he has the remedy for his slumping Angels, who matched a season low by losing their fourth game in a row Friday, falling 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox.
“Play better,” the manager said.”You’ve got to play better.”
That’s it? And they said this game was complicated.
If the solution really is that simple, though, it’s one the Angels might want to try soon since Friday’s game marked the start of a crucial stretch that will see the team play 12 straight games against teams that are at least 12 games under .500.
And between now and Sept. 15 the Angels face just one opponent -- the division-leading Oakland Athletics -- with a winning record.
Given current circumstances, Scioscia insists he’ll be taking those games one at a time.
“What’s a stretch?” he said. “A stretch is made up of a series of games. We’re going to keep playing hard. We’ll let you guys count up [the wins].”
You could count up the Angels’ wins in August with one hand -- and you wouldn’t even need all your fingers. It’s a slump that has pushed the team four games back in the division standings for the first time in a month while cutting its lead in the American League wild-card standings to 5 1/2 games.
Which is why third baseman David Freese, who played through three pennant races with the St. Louis Cardinals, said it’s important to have a short memory this time of year.
“When things aren’t going too hot, you understand that you just turn the page and move on,” he said. “You’re taught to kind of let things slide, good or bad, and keep moving forward.
“Some guys are better than others at it. Things float in your mind and you try to kick them out if they’re negative and try to stick with all the positive stuff. But we’re all human and we all go through the ups and downs.”
The Angel offense has certainly seen its share of ups and downs lately. Coming out of the All-Star break the team led the majors in runs and on-base percentage and led the American League in hits. But the Angels are batting just .225 since the break and averaging nearly two fewer runs per game.
“We’ve struggled,” said Scioscia, who canceled batting practice Saturday to give his struggling hitters a break, mentally as well as physically. “We’re talking 20-plus games and we just haven’t gotten into our offensive flow.”
It’s been a collective slump with Mike Trout hitless in his last 12 at-bats, Josh Hamilton batting .111 over the last week and both Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar hitting below .162 for August.
“These guys are good hitters,” Scioscia said. “Our pitching staff is keeping our head above water right now. But these guys will find it and they’ll keep it for the rest of the year. It’s just right now, it’s hit or miss.”
Mostly miss with the Angel managing just four hits through 6 2/3 innings off Red Sox starter Allen Webster, the same number of hits Boston got in the third inning alone.
The patient Red Sox forced Angels starter Jered Weaver to throw 35 pitches in that inning, with Dustin Pedroia – who batted three times in the first four innings – driving in the first run with a one-one single and Yoenis Cespedes knocking in his first two runs with the Red Sox on a double one out later.
“I was kind of battling the whole night,” Weaver said. “Location and everything was not up to par. It’s disappointing.
“I didn’t make pitches. That’s all there is to it.”
Cespedes gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, misplaying Chris Iannetta’s double in the left-field corner, allowing Efren Navarro to score from first. Trout’s scoring fly ball two batters later closed the deficit to 3-2.
But Mike Napoli’s two-out homer in the fifth inning off Weaver, who lost for the first time in 10 starts, gave the Red Sox a little more breathing room. The Angels had one final chance in the ninth, getting the tying runs on against Koji Uehara. But the Red Sox closer struck out Kole Calhoun looking to end the game.
“It happens periodically during the season,” Scioscia said the Angels’ slump. “You might have nine guys that are struggling. It doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and win games. We’re not attacking the ball with the consistency that we did before the break obviously.
“But you still have to go out there and play and you have to win games. We’ve paid a price for the last 20 games just with some guys being down a little bit.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times