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Angels' weak offense no match for Mariners' Felix Hernandez

Angels' hitting struggles continue, this time against the ace of the Mariners, who hit three home runs

The Angels scored the most runs of any major league team last season. In spring training, the Angels led the American League with a .292 batting average and ranked second in the league in runs and on-base plus slugging.

They returned to Angel Stadium on Monday with a .224 batting average, the lowest OPS in the league, and Felix Hernandez awaiting them.

Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners' ace, was a one-day problem. The offensive collapse had better not be, or the summer will be a long and ugly one in Anaheim.

Nelson Cruz and Logan Morrison each hit a home run in the seventh inning, and Seth Smith hit one in the eighth, powering Hernandez and the Mariners to a 3-2 victory over the Angels. Hernandez is 5-0 with a 1.04 earned-run average in his last eight starts against the Angels; the Mariners have won them all.

The Angels have scored 45 runs fewer than they did through the first 26 games last year, nearly two runs fewer per game. They have scored two runs or fewer in 12 of their first 26 games this year.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto saw his players hit last summer and hit this spring, and he has no plan to tear up the lineup after one bad month.

"I don't think we all of a sudden have seen the last productive days of six of our major league hitters," Dipoto said.

In a modest acknowledgment of their offensive woes, the Angels cut backup catcher Drew Butera and replaced him with Carlos Perez, who was batting .361 at triple-A Salt Lake.

"This isn't as much about what Drew was or was not doing," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's more about what Carlos was doing. He's ready for the challenge. We felt we had to get him here and get him started on his major league career."

With starting catcher Chris Iannetta batting .094, Perez is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday.

"We're not throwing Kris Bryant into the big leagues and plugging him in the four-hole," Dipoto said.

If the Angels have not called up a savior from triple A, they are not about to trade for one either, at least not yet.

With so many bats missing in action, Dipoto is reluctant to trade to upgrade one position now, only to realize in two months that the greatest need turned out to be at another position.

"It's very difficult to figure out where it is that you need to find help," he said.

For the moment, then, with the trade front quiet and minor league depth thin beyond the catching position, the Angels will go with what they have.

"I don't know if there's going to be any huge change in personnel that is going to make a difference," Scioscia said.

The Angels' position players all ranked better than the league average last season, according to the OPS+ statistic. They began play Monday with two of those players long gone — Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton — and only Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Johnny Giavotella ranked above league average among this year's nine.

Giavotella and C.J. Cron do not have much of a track record, although Dipoto believes Giavotella's minor league history indicates he will get on base if he plays regularly. Iannetta has the same history at the major league level.

And then there is Matt Joyce, who has replaced the banished Hamilton as the Angels' primary left fielder. Joyce hit his first home run with the Angels on Monday, in his 81st at-bat.

Joyce began play Monday with a .360 OPS, the lowest of any major league outfielder. In his seven previous seasons, his OPS was fairly consistent, from a high of .837 to a low of .732. Dipoto pointed to Joyce as an example of believing in a career, not a bad month.

"While he may have his worst year as a major league player, I can't believe he'll be half as bad as his worst year to date," Dipoto said.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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