In a little more than a month, the Angels turned a one-game deficit in the American League West into an 11-game lead by virtue of an incredible display of offense and consistently solid defense, emerging as the most prolific run-scoring team in the majors and one of the top 10 in fielding.
They scored runs in bunches and committed only 21 errors in 31 games.
But things haven’t been going so smoothly lately, especially afield. They’ve made eight errors in three games and Sunday at Anaheim Stadium, the miscues--physical and mental--played a key role in a 5-2 loss to Texas.
It began with pitcher Brian Anderson mishandling a slow roller along the first-base line in the first inning, included a slight hesitation on a relay to the plate by second baseman Damion Easley, a bobble by fill-in shortstop Rod Correia, Jorge Fabregas losing grip of the ball while the Rangers pulled off a double steal and Tim Salmon overthrowing the cut-off man.
“We haven’t been playing as well fundamentally as we have been, but it’s something we’re going to address,” Manager Marcel Lachemann said. “As I’ve said before, this game goes in cycles and we’re not going to play all the time like we have the last three weeks.”
Anderson, who gave up one-out hits to Lou Frazier and Will Clark in the first inning, chased down Ivan Rodriquez’s roller and then couldn’t decide whether to tag him or throw to first. He ended up doing neither when he failed to pick up the ball.
“You’re going to give up runs, leave a couple of pitches out where you don’t want them,” Anderson said, “but I made some stupid mistakes and let down my team and that really bothers me.”
Anderson’s error prolonged the inning and Texas scored twice. One of those runs was unearned, but he was just as upset about hitting Ranger second baseman Jeff Frye leading off the seventh. Frye scored after a sacrifice and Otis Nixon’s double.
“I had him 0-2 and there was no excuse for that,” Anderson said. “That’s two runs that shouldn’t have scored, and in a 5-2 game, those two runs would have made a difference in the way our offense approached things.”
Easley’s double-pump on a first-inning relay might have been the difference in a close play at the plate as Frazier slipped under Fabregas’ tag. Correia’s error on Frye’s grounder didn’t result in a run, but if Fabregas had gotten the lead runner on the Rangers’ double steal in the seventh, Nixon wouldn’t have been able to score on Clark’s sacrifice fly.
Even the usually reliable Salmon overthrew cut-off man Correia in the eighth, enabling Esteban Beltre to take second after a single. The Rangers scored their final run on a Frye sacrifice fly, but Beltre was stranded when Nixon grounded out to second.
Lachemann, Anderson, Correia and J.T. Snow insisted that the recent defensive woes that have coincided with shortstop Gary DiSarcina’s absence are just that . . . coincidence. DiSarcina is probably lost for the season after tearing a ligament in his thumb Thursday.
“This team was playing great, fundamentally sound baseball and maybe the last few games it looks like we’ve slipped,” Correia said. “But we’re not panicking. We just have to nip it in the bud.”
Said Snow: “It doesn’t worry me a bit. We played solid defense all year and we’ll continue to play solid defense.”