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Angels Are Hitting a Royal Pothole

Times Staff Writer

And this was the soft part of the schedule?

The Angels hoped to fatten up on last-place Kansas City and Tampa Bay during the first seven games of this 10-game trip, but after two games in America’s heartland, they’re probably wondering, when do we get to Boston?

The Royals, looking more like a contender than the team with baseball’s worst record, thoroughly outplayed the Angels again in an 8-3 victory Friday night in Kauffman Stadium, sending the Angels to their third consecutive loss and pushing their 13-1 start to July into what seems like the distant past.

Starter Bartolo Colon threw six serviceable innings but made one glaring mistake, a first-pitch fastball that Royals leadoff batter David DeJesus walloped over the right-center field wall for a three-run home run in the third inning.

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The shot came one pitch after Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy took his eye off shortstop Orlando Cabrera’s shovel toss to second on Joey Gathright’s grounder up the middle, dropping the ball for an error.

It’s highly doubtful Kennedy, who was indecisive about whether to bare-hand the ball or catch it with his glove, would have turned an inning-ending double play -- Gathright is one of baseball’s fastest runners -- but his mistake enabled Kansas City to score another run on DeJesus’ fifth homer.

The biggest Angels transgression, though, came from the bullpen. Brendan Donnelly entered in the seventh inning when the Angels trailed, 4-1, and, after striking out John Buck, gave up a triple to Gathright, a walk to DeJesus, a three-run home run to Mark Grudzielanek, a walk to Doug Mientkiewicz, and a run-scoring triple to Emil Brown.

That gave Kansas City an 8-1 lead. Had Donnelly held the deficit to 4-1, Maicer Izturis’ two-run homer in the eighth would have made the game interesting.

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Donnelly’s earned-run average jumped from 4.25 to 5.20. The right-hander, one of the game’s most dominant relievers in 2003, has given up 11 earned runs in four innings over his last five appearances, possibly putting his roster spot in jeopardy.

The Angels will activate starting pitcher Kelvim Escobar from the disabled list today, and the way Chris Bootcheck threw Friday after replacing Donnelly -- retiring all five batters he faced, two by strikeout -- the right-hander may have earned a reprieve.

Long reliever Kevin Gregg and left-hander J.C. Romero have also struggled, so there is no shortage of relievers to target for today’s move.

Donnelly showered, dressed and left before the clubhouse was opened, but as he passed reporters on the way out, he said, “You can write that I” stink.

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Donnelly had not been charged with a run in 12 innings over 11 appearances before this rut, but Manager Mike Scioscia said Donnelly is recovered from the neck injury that bothered him in late June and won’t be put on the disabled list.

“It’s like 180 degrees from where he was in June,” Scioscia said. “He was throwing the ball great, but in his last five outings, he’s been missing his spots, getting behind guys, and when he tries to make a pitch to put guys away, he makes mistakes.”

Whatever has ailed the Angels in Kansas City, where they’ve been outscored, 17-7, and committed five errors in two losses, Scioscia said it’s not because they took the Royals lightly.

Kansas City right-hander Runelvys Hernandez returned from his minor league banishment to throw 7 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and five hits, and Mientkiewicz, the Royals first baseman, made a spectacular diving backhand catch of Chone Figgins’ low liner with runners on second and third in the third.

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“Give the Royals credit,” Scioscia said. “They’ve done a lot of things right the first two games, and we haven’t.”


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