Angels' Matt Joyce, Chris Iannetta try to deal with hitting woes

Angels' Matt Joyce, Chris Iannetta feel the pressure of hitting woes

Angels left fielder Matt Joyce drove a ball 400 feet for an out in the eighth inning Saturday, and with the tying run on third base and two outs in the ninth, he blistered a one-hopper that hit pinch-runner Taylor Featherston in the leg between first base and second base.

Joyce, who has a .147 average and can't seem to buy a hit, was actually credited with a single in that last at-bat, but Featherston was ruled out automatically, a bizarre ending to the Angels' 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park.

"The game is ruthless sometimes," Joyce said. "It doesn't necessarily care how well you're doing or what your numbers are, but you just have to keep showing up, man. Keep going, keep grinding, keep trying to work good at-bats and square the ball up, and hopefully things will turn around."

Joyce could have taken those words right out of catcher Chris Iannetta's mouth.

Iannetta did not play after a brutal Friday night game in which he was hitless in four at-bats, including a key seventh-inning strikeout with runners on first and third, and missed a C.J. Wilson pitch for a passed ball that led to an unearned run in the Angels' 3-2 loss.

Iannetta is mired in a season-long slump, batting .086 (five for 58) with one run batted in, 22 strikeouts and eight walks. He looks lost at the plate, chasing bad pitches and letting good-hitting pitches go by, "which is completely uncharacteristic of me," said Iannetta, who is known for his plate discipline.

"It's very frustrating. I'm hitting in the cage, doing early work, talking with coaches, teammates … everything I can possibly do to help myself, I'm doing. For whatever reason, things are off."

Iannetta's eyesight, he said, is not. Iannetta's OPS (on-base-plus slugging) jumped in the final two months of 2013 after he started wearing contacts for a slight vision impairment, but he said he's seeing the ball fine, at the plate and behind the plate.

"I have 20-20 vision without contacts, but I see a lot better with them," Iannetta said. "It was more of a fatigue issue. I have astigmatism and by the fifth or sixth inning, I started to get blurry. The contacts relax my eyes enough. So visually, I'm fine. Check that one off the list."

Iannetta is an easy target for fans who would like to see him replaced, but he's even more critical of himself.

"What everyone says from the stands, or wherever it may be, I'm 10 times harder on myself than whatever they can say," Iannetta said. "No one is telling me anything new. But people can turn off the game and it's over, they're on with their life. For me, I live it. It's constantly on your mind.

"If you think you walk away from the field and it just goes away, it doesn't. You're constantly thinking, 'What could it be? What am I doing wrong? Can I change it? What can I work on tomorrow?' You're constantly troubleshooting, problem-solving."

Iannetta, 32, insists that his physical skills haven't eroded, that he's the same player he was last season, when he hit .252 with a .373 on-base percentage. He doesn't look the same, though.

"If you want to define pressing," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "you're going to point to Chris right now."

Scioscia keeps telling Iannetta to relax, to trust the process, to not put so much pressure on himself, but Iannetta can't seem to help himself.

"Sometimes you figure it out, sometimes you're spinning your wheels, and sometimes it gets better once you just stop trying," Iannetta said. "But that's really hard to do in this game because you care so much about it, you love it so much, you want to contribute, and you want to win.

"To just stop trying is kind of counterintuitive. But sometimes when you stop pressing and just let it happen, it happens sooner."

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times