Angels can't find offense

Times Staff Writer

On the bright side for the Angels, they could not be criticized for their hitting with runners in scoring position Wednesday night.

That's because no Angel came to the plate with a runner in scoring position.

Maicer Izturis' two-run home run in the ninth inning broke up Armando Galarraga's bid for a shutout, but it hardly eased the sting of another limp offensive performance in a 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium.

Galarraga, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of an April 26 win over the Angels, gave up four hits in 8 1/3 innings, and Marcus Thames hit a pair of two-run homers off Angels starter Joe Saunders, as the Tigers avoided a sweep of the three-game series.

The Angels are now batting .179 (52 for 290) and have scored only 23 runs in their last nine games, an average of 2.6 a game.

They have scored in only 14 of their last 84 innings.

They've been held to three runs or fewer in 12 of their last 15 games and four runs or fewer in 20 of 26 games this month.

They were hitting .158 (nine for 57) with runners in scoring position in the eight games before Wednesday.

"The offense has to get back on track at some point," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Tonight, I thought we squared up nine or 10 balls and didn't have much to show for it.

"But we're not getting enough guys on early to pressure clubs."

It seemed odd that a team scuffling so badly for runs would sit its most dangerous hitter, Vladimir Guerrero, for the second time in four days.

But Scioscia claimed repeatedly that the right fielder is sound, that with an off day today, he wanted to give the slumping slugger two full days to "mentally recharge."

Guerrero, who is batting .258 with seven homers and 28 runs batted in, well off his usual .300, 25-homer, 120-RBIs pace, did not object.

"I have no [health] issues, I feel good," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "It was Mike's decision, and he told me why he was doing it, to give me a couple of days off. I agree with it.

"I can clear my mind and hopefully be a little sharper Friday."

With Guerrero out, Scioscia dropped Gary Matthews Jr. from the top of the order to the fifth spot and inserted Reggie Willits in the leadoff spot and Izturis into the second spot.

Little changed.

The Angels managed three singles and hit into three double plays before Willits walked and Izturis homered in the ninth, the first time any Angels had advanced to second base.

"These guys know they're better offensive players, and that leads to frustration," Scioscia said. "But their confidence is fine.

"It's nothing a couple of hits here or there won't take care of."

Despite their offensive woes, the Angels have won four straight series on the strength of their superb pitching -- in fact, the last time through the rotation, the five Angels starters combined to go 3-1 with a 1.30 earned-run average.

But Saunders, who started that rotation run with an 8 1/3 -inning, one-run, three-hit effort in a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday, brought it to an end Wednesday night.

Curtis Granderson led off the game with a single, and after Placido Polanco struck out, Thames drove a Saunders changeup over the wall in left for a two-run home run.

Magglio Ordonez singled and Miguel Cabrera struck out, but Ivan Rodriguez singled, and Edgar Renteria had a run-scoring single for a 3-0 lead.

Saunders retired 11 of the next 12 batters, but with one out in the fifth, Polanco doubled and Thames drove another changeup over the center-field wall for a 5-0 lead.

"I executed the pitches; he executed the home runs," said Saunders, who fell to 8-2. "They weren't bad pitches. They just weren't the right pitches."


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