Rodriguez can't find his groove

Times Staff Writer

The Angels were frustrated all around Thursday, and not only by the disco music blaring from the stadium sound system.

The club flashed back to the '70s, with clips from "Jaws" and "Star Wars" and an odd game of Pong on the video board, with throwback uniforms on the field. The game was a throwback to the Ryan and Tanana era too: decent pitching, not too much offense, and a loss for the guys wearing yellow halos on their caps.

Jim Thome tagged closer Francisco Rodriguez for the game-winning single in the ninth inning, saddling the Angels with a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The Angels have lost six of eight games, weighed down by a sagging offense.

The frustration showed most upon the face of Rodriguez, who lost for the first time in more than a year -- May 6, 2007, to be exact, also against the White Sox.

With the eventual winning run on third base and two out, Thome stepped to the plate, batting .199. Rodriguez threw ball one, and on the next pitch Thome singled home that winning run.

Rodriguez gestured at the plate umpire, Chuck Meriwether, in apparent frustration over his calls. Rodriguez fell behind each of the first four batters he faced, and 11 of his 19 pitches were called balls.

"There were a couple pitches he thought were good pitches and didn't get the call," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"I thought there were some close pitches," catcher Mike Napoli said.

Rodriguez declined to speak with reporters.

Torii Hunter did speak, on behalf of an offense that was shut out twice in three games against the Rays and scored six runs in the final three games against the White Sox.

"I'm inconsistent," Hunter said. "Vladdy [Guerrero] is inconsistent. Garret [Anderson] is the one hot guy.

"We just need all of our cylinders to click. That's baseball. We know it's going to happen. We're just trying to keep our heads above water."

The Angels have struggled to compensate for injuries to infielders Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick. The bottom three in the lineup Thursday -- Erick Aybar, Matt Brown and Jeff Mathis -- plus leadoff hitter Reggie Willits were one for 14 with six strikeouts.

"There's a lot of pressure on the middle of the lineup," Scioscia said. "We need to get guys contributing one through nine. Right now, we're searching for that continuity. It's going to come."

Angels starter Jon Garland, facing his old team for the first time, worked six effective if inefficient innings. He gave up three runs, seven hits and four walks, striking out one. He made 40 pitches in the second inning, 109 in all.

The Angels scored twice in the first inning, on a single by Anderson and a double by Casey Kotchman, plus an unearned run in the seventh.

Rodriguez started the ninth, with the score 3-3. The Angels had been 18-0 in games he had appeared, but he never found the strike zone on this night.

He threw two balls to A.J. Pierzynski, who hit the next pitch for a double. He threw two balls to Carlos Quentin, who hit the next pitch to deep center field for an out, allowing Pierzynski to tag and advance to third base.

He fell behind Jermaine Dye, 3-and-1, but Dye popped out to first. He threw ball one to Thome, who then singled home Pierzynski with the winning run.


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