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A’s Making Angels’ July Go Awry, 6-2

TIMES STAFF WRITER

That June bliss, when the Angels would score nine runs one night, two runs the next and win both games; when two-out hits were bountiful and quality starts the norm, and when all the breaks seemed to go the Angels’ way, has given way to harsh times in July.

The Angels still are in first place, one-half game ahead of Texas, in the American League West, but after a thoroughly uninspiring and unsightly 6-2 loss to the Oakland A’s before 10,231 at the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday, it’s apparent they are standing--barely--on wobbly legs.

A rotation that keyed a 22-6 June has combined to go 1-7 with a 6.60 earned-run average in July. A defense that has been so sturdy, ranking third in the league in fielding percentage, committed three errors Tuesday, paving the way for three unearned runs.

The heart of the Angel order--cleanup batter Tim Salmon and No. 5 hitter Cecil Fielder--has no home runs and seven RBIs in 11 games this month. Six of those RBIs are Fielder’s. And the Angels are 2-9 in July, with five of those losses to the A’s. “It’s real easy to play this game when you’re winning and when everything is going good--it’s easy to sit back and ride the wave,” said shortstop Gary DiSarcina, whose first-inning error led to two unearned runs Tuesday.

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“But when you play 162 games, there are going to be stretches that test your mettle. Are you going to be a front-runner or a team player and grind it out? This team can grind it out.”

But do the Angels have the sheer talent to win the West? Can they contend with a rotation that, until the injured Ken Hill returns, essentially consists of an ace (Chuck Finley) and four No. 5 starters?

And with a rookie second baseman (Justin Baughman) who seems overmatched at times offensively, and a third baseman (Dave Hollins) who has struggled to climb to the .250 mark and falls into occasional defensive ruts? And a first baseman (Cecil Fielder) who is batting only .239?

Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi continues to canvass the market for players who might be able to improve the Angels before the July 31 trading deadline, “but we’ve been told not to expect anything,” center fielder Jim Edmonds said. “I think we have the players to get it done.”

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So does DiSarcina.

“In my heart, I believe the guys on this team can do it,” he said. “If you want to make a trade, do it, but we broke camp with these guys, and these are the guys you fight for. I come to the park to play every day--I’m not thinking about trades. That’s the furthest thing from my mind.”

Something has to give, though. If the Angels don’t pitch better than they did Tuesday, when Omar Olivares gave up five runs--three earned--and seven hits and walked three in three innings for his fourth consecutive loss, and if they don’t generate more offense, changes will be made.

“You do what you have to do to get out of this, and if that means shaking something up, we will,” Manager Terry Collins said. “I don’t know what we’d do at this point, but we’ll come up with something--I guarantee that.”

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When the Angels slumped in May, going 12-15, Collins stressed patience. “We just need to start playing better,” he said at the time, and the Angels did. But now it’s July and the stakes are higher.

“You’re not going to panic, but we are in a heated, heated pennant race,” Collins said. “We have to make sure that each and every game becomes a priority, and we stay as ready as we can.”

They didn’t look ready Tuesday. Catcher Phil Nevin’s throw to second on Rickey Henderson’s first-inning stolen base went about 15 feet over DiSarcina’s head.

DiSarcina’s low throw allowed Ben Grieve to reach base in Oakland’s three-run first, and Olivares’ wild pickoff throw in Oakland’s two-run second was costly. Hollins’ throwing error allowed the A’s to score their final run in the sixth, and Oakland left-hander Kenny Rogers (9-3) made it stand up with six shutout innings, in which he gave up four hits.

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“We stunk--there’s no reason to sit here and analyze it,” DiSarcina said. “When you have a quality pitcher like Kenny Rogers out there and you’re stinking up the field--myself included--you have no chance.”


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