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Zero Is No Hero for the Angels

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel Manager Terry Collins ripped up his batting order, tossed the names into the air and let them fall where they may Sunday. They landed right where they started: somewhere near rock bottom.

Despite Collins’ creative efforts, in which he shuffled his lineup like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, the Angel offense continued to sputter in a 6-0 yawner of a loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 34,580 in Edison Field.

The Angels have now lost six of eight games, and the way they’ve been hitting--they managed six singles Sunday, they’ve scored one run in the last 18 innings, and they’re 34 for 156 (.218) in the last five games--they’d have trouble batting an eyelash.

Is it any coincidence that an empty locker in the Angel clubhouse, now being used as a lost-and-found bin, was filled with baseball bats Sunday afternoon? Someone even spotted a few runs in there, too.

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“How do we snap out of this? It could be a lot of things,” Collins said. “A broken-bat single with the bases loaded and two outs, a fight. . . . I don’t know. You see a lot of things happen in this game, but if you’re good enough you’ll find a way through it. And we’re good enough.”

Good pitching would help, but the Angels didn’t get much of it from starter Allen Watson, who gave up six runs--three in the third and three in the fifth--and eight hits in a 4 1/3-inning performance that included three wild pitches and Devil Ray catcher Mike Difelice’s fifth-inning homer.

After six starts between them, Watson and Jason Dickson, the Angels’ No. 4 and 5 starters, are still looking for a victory. The two have combined for an 0-5 record and 11.42 earned-run average, and opponents are hitting .397 against them.

“We can pick apart the game, critique every phase of it, and all we’re doing is eating up space in your column,” Collins said. “It comes down to playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

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And managing the way it’s supposed to be managed. Collins, saying he was “just trying to shake things up,” moved Darin Erstad, the team’s hottest hitter, from the leadoff spot to the third spot and from first base to center field, where he replaced the injured Jim Edmonds (sprained right wrist).

Garret Anderson went from sixth to the leadoff spot, Carlos Garcia replaced second baseman Norberto Martin and hit second, and struggling designated hitter Cecil Fielder went from fifth to sixth and replaced Erstad at first.

Collins wanted to give third baseman Dave Hollins the day off, so he wedged replacement Frank Bolick into the fifth spot, between cleanup batter Tim Salmon and Fielder.

The result? Tampa Bay right-hander Rolando Arrojo pitched seven shutout innings, escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second, and the Devil Rays won three of four against the Angels to improve to 10-6.

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Erstad’s consecutive game extra-base hit streak ended at nine.

Only one Angel runner reached second base after the second inning.

“You see what happens when you overmanage?” Collins said. “You hear about tricks where guys pull lineups out of a hat, but that’s all bull. The idea is to just go out and play.”

It appeared the Angels might break through in the second when Bolick, Fielder and Phil Nevin singled to load the bases. But Arrojo struck out Matt Walbeck and Gary DiSarcina lined back to Arrojo, who doubled off Nevin to end what wound up being the only Angel scoring threat.

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Aaron Ledesma sparked the Devil Rays’ three-run third with a leadoff double, and he scored on a wild pitch. Quinton McCracken’s RBI single and Jerome Walton’s RBI double made the score 3-0, and that outburst, combined with Anaheim’s failure to score in the second, seemed to deflate the Angels.

“That hurt, especially with the way we’ve been swinging the bats,” Salmon said. “This is a funk--we’ve all seen it, we’ve all been through it. The million-dollar question is, how do we get out of it? We just have to keep battling, keep fighting, and we can’t quit. That’s where I would be concerned, if guys were quitting.”


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