Rays interrupt Angels' easy stroll in the park

Rays interrupt Angels' easy stroll in the park
Angels left fielderKirk Nieuwenhuis heads to first base after getting a hit against the Rays on Wednesday night. (Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times)

The American League East this season is widely regarded as mediocre at best, awful at worst. So there is one statistic that must be particularly troubling to the Angels, as they try to climb the standings in the AL West.

There is one team in the AL West with a losing record against the AL East. That team would be the Angels.


With their 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, the Angels fell to 6-7 against the AL East. The Houston Astros, leaders of the AL West, are 8-2 against the AL East.

It's a handful of games so far, not a trend. But the Angels leave Thursday for a six-game trip against AL East opponents — a three-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium, followed by three more at Tampa Bay.

The Angels came close on Wednesday. They got one run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score, on a sacrifice fly by Erick Aybar. But they stranded the potential winning run on second base when, after an intentional walk to Mike Trout, Albert Pujols grounded out.

Trout has nine intentional walks this season, one shy of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the AL lead.

As the game went into extra innings, the Angels called on closer Huston Street.

He gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Kevin Kiermaier, which was enough to secure the Rays' victory.

Four hours before game time, the picture was more upbeat for the Angels. Their starter, Hector Santiago, who might be the friendliest guy on the Angels, engaged in friendly banter as he arrived for work to find seven huge cardboard boxes stacked next to his locker.

He ripped one open, to see what was inside, and you worried about a pitcher straining his arm.

Then bullpen coach Steve Soliz walked past, and Santiago picked up one of the boxes and threw it at Soliz. You worried about a pitcher throwing out his arm.

The boxes contained T-shirts for "Santiago's Soldiers," a children's charity he founded. The boxes eventually had to make way, so Santiago picked them up, one by one, and stuffed them into the locker vacated by the recently demoted Vinnie Pestano. You worried about a pitcher throwing out his back.

But, for a while, Santiago was fine, not only in the clubhouse but through the first five innings. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, picked off a runner in the second, and pitched perfect innings from the third through the fifth.

By that time, the Angels led 4-0 through five innings, and Santiago had lowered his earned-run average to 2.01 — the same as the Rays' Chris Archer, who dazzled at Angel Stadium on Tuesday with 15 strikeouts.

Then came, as the cliche would have it, the fateful sixth. Within five batters, Santiago gave up five runs. The shutout bid was gone. The lead was gone. He was gone.

Brandon Guyer walked, Joey Butler homered, and the Rays had pulled within 4-2. Evan Longoria singled, Logan Forsythe walked — on four pitches — and Steven Souza homered. The Rays led, 5-4, and Santiago's ERA had risen to 2.69. The Angels spared him the loss but couldn't do more than that.

Twitter: @BillShaikin