Angels not big hit in Canada

Times Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Considering their history at Rogers Centre, the Angels were happy to win two of three games here, even though Thursday night's 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays prevented them from leaving Canada with a three-game sweep.

They still couldn't get much satisfaction, though, not when their inability to sustain much of anything offensively continues to gnaw at them.

"We're trying to figure it out," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's a feeling we just don't have right now. We have two guys get hot, then four guys go cold. We never have that consistency of everybody clicking on all cylinders at the same time.

"But we're battling. We won two of three from the Blue Jays. It wasn't pretty, but we got it done. . . . It's a little rough right now, and we apologize, but it's not peaches and cream every day."

The Angels, who are 20-39 at Rogers Centre since 1996, scored 10 runs and had 16 hits in the series and went six for 22 with runners in scoring position, but give Toronto's pitching credit.

The Blue Jays have a solid rotation and superb bullpen, as evidenced Thursday night, when A.J. Burnett gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and relievers Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan shut out the Angels on one hit in the last three innings.

But it's not only Toronto pitching that has stymied the Angels. Take away recent 10-run outbursts against the White Sox and Dodgers, and the Angels have scored 28 runs in 11 games, an average of 2.5. They're hitting .248 (29 for 117) with runners in scoring position over their last 14 games.

Vladimir Guerrero had two home runs and four runs batted in Wednesday night but was hitless in four at-bats Thursday, his average slipping to .260. Hunter went one for 10 in the series, his average slipping to .281.

After a pair of two-hit games against the Dodgers over the weekend, Gary Matthews Jr. went one for 10 in Toronto and is batting .216.

He has one RBI in his last 15 games.

"The overriding theme the last 15 games or so is hitting with runners in scoring position," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We haven't gotten a lot of guys in scoring position, so every time you do, it's magnified a bit. And if you're always looking for that two-out hit with runners in scoring position, it's going to be tough."

The Angels actually got three of those Thursday night, as Sean Rodriguez and Maicer Izturis hit consecutive, two-out, RBI doubles in the fifth inning and Jeff Mathis hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth to pull the Angels even, 3-3.

But Angels starter Ervin Santana, who gave up two runs (Joe Inglett RBI triple, Brad Wilkerson RBI single) in the third and one (Rod Barajas bloop RBI single) in the fourth, hung a back-door slider to Lyle Overbay, who lined it into the second deck above the right-field wall for a decisive home run in the sixth.

Santana, who said he was "trying to bounce" the home run pitch to Overbay, is now 0-2 with a 6.62 earned-run average in his last three starts after going 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA in his first seven starts.

The right-hander gave up 11 earned runs innings in 49 innings of his first seven games; he has given up 13 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings of his last three games.

Santana's mechanics still look clean, and his fastball is regularly hitting 95 mph. His slider, for the most part, has been sharp, and his changeup looks good.

Which is why the Angels aren't concerned.

"Nothing is different," Scioscia said. "He's maintaining his stuff, throwing the ball fine. The ball is coming out of his hand well. . . . Our rotation needs to give us a chance to win, and these guys are."


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