Howie Kendrick returned to the Angels on Friday and so, for a couple of brief instances, did their offense.
Provided your definition of “offense” is a loose one, that is. A sacrifice fly, a two-base throwing error and a couple of stolen bases rarely lead to comparisons with the 1927 Yankees. Nor did they lead to a win for the Angels, who lost, 10-4, to the Toronto Blue Jays.
But maybe it was a start. The four runs, after all, matched the most the Angels have scored in a game in nearly two weeks. And with the team hitting .225 in May, any progress has to be considered worth noting.
“We got a little more into our game,” said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia who, like his team, is suffering from a cold. “Situational hitting was a little better. But those guys kept scoring and we were playing catch-up the whole night.”
Kendrick, who was batting .500 when he went on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain, helped the Angels catch up once, lining the first major league pitch he had seen in nearly seven weeks deep to right to score Torii Hunter from third with a second-inning sacrifice fly to tie the score at 1-1.
Despite the boost he gave the offense, Scioscia said Kendrick was playing because he was sound, not because the Angels’ offense is anemic.
“If he wasn’t 100%, we wouldn’t even consider it,” Scioscia said of his second baseman, who cut short a minor league rehab assignment in Salt Lake City to return to Anaheim on Thursday. “We’re not doing it because we’re struggling offensively. He’s at a point right now where his next challenge is to play in the major leagues and start making adjustments.”
The Angels’ challenge, meanwhile, is to find ways to score. And they proved creative Friday, scoring one run on pitcher Dustin McGowan’s throwing error and setting up two others with Hunter’s sixth and seventh stolen bases of the season.
Unfortunately right-hander Jered Weaver (4-6) was on his way to matching a season worst by giving up 10 hits, which led to six runs, in his four-plus innings. He was relieved after giving up three straight singles to start what became a four-run Toronto fifth that turned a tie score into a Toronto rout.
“It was just one of those games were some good pitches fell in and pitches I got up, they hit pretty hard,” Weaver said. “I felt good. I felt like I was making some pitches. And they were battling on me.”
Two of Toronto’s runs came on a pair of homers by Lyle Overbay. The Angels haven’t hit two home runs in a game since May 21. In fact, two homers are as many as slumping Gary Matthews -- who managed an infield single in four trips Friday to raise his season average to .220 -- has hit in the last five weeks. And he’s not the only Angel slumping; three starters finished the game hitting as low or lower than Matthews.
“The offense will come along,” Weaver said. “They got some runs tonight and it’s usually been enough, four runs, the way our rotation’s been throwing.”
And there were some hopeful signs for the Angels aside from the return of Kendrick, who went 0 for 3 with an RBI. Hunter snapped out of a two-for-13 slump with three hits and scored two runs for the first time since the second week of the season and Casey Kotchman drove in two runs for only the second time this month.
That clearly wasn’t enough, but the Angels, who have lost two in a row and three of their last five, will have to find a way to make that work. After all, they won’t get another player back from the disabled list until next weekend.