Rays are too much for Angels, 6-4

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- That was no act of nature that stopped the Angels in their tracks Monday night. It was a force that looks more menacing and appears to have more staying power than any tropical storm or hurricane the Angels might encounter this week.

It was the Tampa Bay Rays, and they dispatched the Angels again Monday night, riding their usual strong pitching and a pair of early two-run home runs by Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd to a 6-4 victory in Tropicana Field.

For those Angels fans still obsessing about the Boston Red Sox and whether the Angels can win in Fenway Park in October, you might want to check those American League East standings.

The first-place Rays have as many wins as the Angels (76), they’re 4 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox, and they’ve all but buried the New York Yankees, who are 10 games back.


“That is a good team,” Angels first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “A flat-out good team.”

They’re even better at home.

The Rays are 46-17 in their domed stadium, the best home record in baseball, and they could pose a major threat to the Angels’ World Series hopes if they finish with a better record and gain home-field advantage in the postseason.

The Angels are 0-4 in Tropicana Field this season and have scored nine runs in those games, batting .160 (20 for 125) with six extra-base hits, one a homer. In what is supposedly a hitter’s park.


“They’re extraordinary here,” said Angels pitcher Jon Garland, who gave up five runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits in six innings Monday to fall to 11-8.

“They love playing in the dome. I don’t know what it is, but it plays to their advantage.

“They have a lot of young guys, they play hard every night, and they can taste the playoffs. They’re gunning for it. They want it bad.”

Garland put the Angels in a hole Monday with two mistakes, a changeup he got up to Hinske, who hit a two-run homer, his 19th, to right-center in the second inning, and a fat fastball to Floyd, whose two-run shot to right in the third was his ninth of the season.


A third run scored in the third when Hinske’s single rolled under right fielder Vladimir Guerrero’s glove for a two-base error that gave the Rays a 5-1 lead.

The Angels scored two in the sixth on an RBI double by Garret Anderson and a sacrifice fly by Juan Rivera, who hit a solo homer in the third, his ninth of the season, all coming since July 2. Guerrero’s RBI single in the seventh trimmed the lead to 5-4.

But another botched defensive play in the eighth helped the Rays score a big insurance run.

Justin Ruggiano singled and took second on a bunt, and Gabe Gross singled sharply to center fielder Torii Hunter, who made a strong throw home.


But shortstop Erick Aybar inexplicably leaped for Hunter’s throw, and the ball nicked off his glove, giving the Angels no shot at Ruggiano, who ran through third base coach Tom Foley’s stop sign and scored for a 6-4 lead.

“Erick should have been covering second on that play,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think he thought the ball was in the gap and there’d be no play at home.”

Dan Wheeler, in place of injured closer Troy Percival, retired the side in order in the ninth for his sixth save, preserving the win for right-hander Andy Sonnanstine, who gave up three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings to improve to 13-6.

The Angels lost for the fourth time in five games, but there were some bright spots on offense: Hunter (0 for 17), Guerrero (0 for 16) and Howie Kendrick (0 for 13) ended slumps, and Anderson’s double extended his hitting streak to 21 games, tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history.


But if the Angels are going to beat the Rays here -- this week and in October -- they must find a way to solve Tampa Bay’s pitching.

“What’s hurt us here is what’s happened in the batter’s box,” Scioscia said. “We haven’t swung well in a hitter’s park, and they’ve pitched well. We’ve got to get used to this environment.”