New Look, Same Old Luck for Angels
Manager Terry Collins made some radical lineup changes. First baseman Darin Erstad wore his socks differently. Tony Phillips, a switch-hitter, batted from the left side against a left-handed pitcher.
No matter. The Angels’ luck did not change Friday night and neither did the result in a 6-1 loss to Detroit in front of 16,016 in Tiger Stadium.
Detroit left-hander Justin Thompson, the best pitcher you’ve never heard of, threw a five-hitter with five strikeouts, and the Angel offense remained as stale as two-week-old bread. A team noted for its resiliency has now lost 14 of 20 games to fall four games behind the Seattle Mariners.
“Remember that 10-game win streak earlier in the year when everything was falling for us and I told you there would be a time when those balls wouldn’t drop?” Collins said. “Well, guess what. It’s here. Everything we hit hard is caught, and our bloops are being caught. All we can do is keep battling.”
The Angels, who have lost four in a row--their longest skid since losing five in a row from June 13-18--have gone nine consecutive games without reaching double figures in hits, and their team batting average has slipped from .278 to .272 in three weeks.
Jim Edmonds is four for 25 with two runs batted in, Garret Anderson is five for 30 with one RBI, Dave Hollins is five for 39 with no RBIs, and Gary DiSarcina is one for 25 with no RBIs in their last eight games.
Leadoff batter Rickey Henderson is two for 15 in his last five games and is batting .219 since being traded from the San Diego Padres on Aug. 15, and Phillips hasn’t scored in eight games.
“Any time you’re scuffling it’s not because you’re not trying, it’s usually because you’re trying too hard,” said Tim Salmon, 0 for 4 Friday night after slugging two homers Thursday. “Guys try to make too much happen sometimes.
“We’re playing like we did in spring training when we couldn’t do anything. You have to ask yourself, ‘How do you win?’ You take one game, one inning, one at-bat, one pitch at a time. You break it down and keep that as your focus instead of looking at the end result and thinking, ‘We’ve got to win, we’ve got to win.’ That becomes overwhelming.”
Collins said he considered “eight or nine” combinations when formulating Friday’s lineup before settling on a predominantly right-handed order that included reserves Chris Turner, Luis Alicea and Craig Grebeck.
But the Angels advanced only one runner to second base in the first seven innings before finally scoring in the eighth when Turner tripled and Alicea hit a sacrifice fly, the only run the Angels have scored in 16 innings against Thompson (13-10) this season.
Angel knuckleballer Dennis Springer (8-8) wasn’t hit very hard, but he walked six and the Tigers scored their first three runs on outs--a sacrifice fly and two ground balls--and Bobby Higginson added a solo home run in the fifth to make it 5-0. That was more than enough support for Thompson, who is the beneficiary of only 11 Tiger runs in his 10 losses.
“Right now, everybody looks good to us,” Collins said. “Not to take anything away from Justin Thompson--he’s an outstanding young pitcher with a bright future--but we’re not swinging the bats too well.”
In an effort to snap the Angels out of their funk, Collins will take the less-is-more approach. Instead of taking extra batting practice, the Angels will not hit at all before today’s game against the Tigers.
“You sit there during the game and try to figure out how to change things. . . . What’s the next step, what can we do now?” Collins said. “Rod [Carew, Angel batting instructor] suggested kicking back for a day, so I’ll let them sleep in, show up [today] and play, and see how it goes.”
It certainly can’t hurt a team that has given Collins a helpless feeling from the dugout this week.
“Larry Bowa [third-base coach] can’t hit, Rod can’t hit, Dave Parker [first-base coach] can’t hit, and I could never hit, so I just have to keep running them out there,” Collins said. “We’re a better team than this. Sooner or later things are going to change, and hopefully we’re not so far back we can’t catch up.”