Vladimir Guerrero, who collected his 2,000th hit in Detroit last Saturday, reached another milestone of sorts Friday night, but there were no comparisons to some of the game’s all-time greats, and no one called for the game ball.
The Angels slugger went hitless in four at-bats in a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in Angel Stadium, and for the first time in his illustrious 12-year career, Guerrero has gone five straight starts without a hit.
The 0-for-15 skid dropped Guerrero’s average to .257. The right fielder has three home runs and 14 runs batted in through 31 games, paltry numbers for a guy who has hit over .300 with 25 homers or more for 10 straight seasons and 100 RBIs or more in nine of the past 10 years.
He has one homer in his last 20 games, and instead of driving the ball consistently to all fields, he’s hitting far too many ground balls to the left side of the infield.
“Vlad is human too,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He says he feels fine, but he’s in a bit of a funk. He’s just not quite where he will be or where we’re used to seeing him.”
Guerrero, 32, is such a feel hitter he rarely watches tapes of his swing or of opposing pitchers -- he knows most pitchers by their numbers, not their names -- but batting coach Mickey Hatcher said Guerrero has been spending time in the video room recently.
“He was frustrated tonight -- you could see it,” Hatcher said. “His swing is not [consistent] right now. It’s different every time up. I wish I had an answer. . . . Hopefully [today] it’s different.”
The fact that Guerrero was in the on-deck circle when Friday night’s game ended probably fueled his frustration.
With the Angels trailing, 4-2, Torii Hunter opened the bottom of the ninth with his third hit of the game, a single to left off Orioles closer George Sherrill, who was 10 for 11 in save opportunities.
Though Garret Anderson had a .125 average against left-handers, Scioscia left him in to face the left-handed Sherrill, and before the grumbling in the bleachers had died down, Anderson slapped a single to left that advanced Hunter to third.
Erick Aybar followed with a grounder to third baseman Melvin Mora, whose throw home was too late to get Hunter, who scored to make it 4-3.
Brandon Wood’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, but Juan Rivera, pinch-hitting for Jeff Mathis, hit a first-pitch popup to first. Chone Figgins was walked intentionally, and Reggie Willits popped to second to end the game.
Sherrill’s escape act preserved the first win in 16 starts for right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings and held the Angels hitless from the second through fifth innings.
Jered Weaver, who hadn’t yielded a run in 14 innings of two career starts against the Baltimore, took the loss, allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking two.
The Orioles scored three runs or less in seven of their previous 11 games, so Manager Dave Trembley shook up his lineup, dropping Kevin Millar out of the cleanup spot and flip-flopping Mora and Nick Markakis in the second and third spots.
The result? Markakis lined a solo home run to center in the first and hit an RBI groundout in the third. Mora knocked in a run with a bunt single in the third. Markakis also doubled to left and scored on Mora’s single to left in the fifth to give Baltimore a 4-1 lead.
The Angels rallied in the sixth when Willits walked and eventually scored on Hunter’s two-out single to center. Hunter then swiped second between pitches, taking off while Guthrie stood on the mound with the ball.
Infielders Brian Roberts and Luis Hernandez were caught so off guard that neither budged as Hunter slid into second. But the rally died when Anderson grounded out.
The Angels have absorbed Guerrero’s struggles -- they’re tied with Oakland and Boston for the best record in the American League -- but they would be even more dangerous if Guerrero was crushing the ball like he usually does.
“I keep hoping he’ll get it going,” Hatcher said. “He will.”