Angels fall to Yankees, 7-5, despite a last-inning rally

It seems a little early for Mike Scioscia to “bounce a couple of things off” his players, which is manager-speak for the postgame tongue-lashings Scioscia delivers when the Angels are not playing up to their capabilities.

A mere eight games into the 2010 season, Scioscia reached a breaking point.

The Angels lost to the New York Yankees, 7-5, on Tuesday to fall to 2-6, their worst eight-game start since they opened 1972 with the same record and finished 75-80 and fifth in the American League West.

Afterward, Scioscia kept the visitors’ clubhouse in Yankee Stadium closed a little longer for a team meeting.

“Some things happened this past week that have been uncharacteristic, and some things have snowballed, issues we need to clean up on the field and be more consistent with,” Scioscia said. “We tightened some things up.”

And just how did Scioscia do that?

“You get the verbal wrench out and you tighten it up, that’s what you do,” he said. “We have different sizes [of wrenches] in several different languages.”

There was no shortage of loose nuts and bolts. Four pitchers combined to walk nine batters — five by starter Ervin Santana, who gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings — pushing their season total to 35 walks in eight games.

The Angels, who in 2009 hit a franchise-record .297 with runners in scoring position, were two for nine in those situations Tuesday and are batting .258 (16 for 62) with runners in scoring position.

Since a 6-3 victory over Minnesota in the season opener, the Angels have been outscored, 48-23, in seven games, a statistic that would have been more lopsided had Bobby Abreu not hit a ninth-inning grand slam against David Robertson on Tuesday.

And just for good measure, Kendry Morales, who had three hits, including a home run in the eighth inning, lost track of the outs in the second inning and had to scramble back to second base on Jeff Mathis’ routine one-out fly ball to right field.

“We had two instances of guys not doing things on the basepaths that we need,” Scioscia said. “Pitchers are getting a little tentative, a little indecisive, in the pitcher-catcher relationship.

“We’re feeling our way through some things. Some young kids are trying to find their way, and some veterans are trying to create some offensive chemistry. We haven’t competed the way we can.”

Tuesday began with the Angels witnessing a grisly scene as they boarded the bus in front of their Midtown hotel, where the body of a 39-year-old man who jumped from the 42nd floor in an apparent suicide was covered with a white sheet.

The stadium provided no solace. The Angels first watched a pregame ceremony for the Yankees — the team that vanquished them from the playoffs in October received their World Series championship rings — and then got thumped by them.

Nick Johnson (first inning) and Derek Jeter (third) hit solo home runs, and Jeter hit a run-scoring single in the fourth inning. Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run single in the sixth, and Jorge Posada’s run-scoring double and Curtis Granderson’s run-scoring single in the eighth gave the Yankees a 7-1 lead.

Abreu followed singles by Howie Kendrick, Mathis and Brandon Wood with his ninth-inning home run, the Angels’ first grand slam since Mark Teixeira’s bases-loaded shot against the Yankees on Aug. 3, 2008.

But Mariano Rivera came on to strike out Torii Hunter and retire Hideki Matsui on an infield fly to close out the victory and launch Scioscia’s postgame meeting.

“It was a pump-up speech — we need to play the game the way we know how,” Hunter said. “This is disappointing for the fans, the front office, the coaches and the players. We’re all frustrated.”