The strength of this Angels rotation was supposed to be depth, not dominance. The team may lack a true ace, “but we have five bona fide No. 2 guys,” left-hander Joe Saunders said in spring training, pitchers who should keep the Angels in games most nights.
Three weeks into the season, the Angels are still searching for more consistency from their rotation, which seems to have a split personality.
When the starting pitchers are good, they are very good, and when they are bad, as Joel Pineiro was in Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the New York Yankees in Angel Stadium, they are really bad.
Pineiro was rocked for six runs and 11 hits in six innings Saturday, just 10 days after holding the same club to one run and five hits in seven innings of a 5-3 Angels victory in Yankee Stadium.
In their nine victories this season, Angels starters have a 2.03 earned-run average with 49 strikeouts, seven walks and six home runs given up in 62 innings. In 10 losses they have a 7.59 ERA with 32 strikeouts, 22 walks and 13 homers given up in 53 1/3 innings.
“We’re still getting our feet on the ground,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Some things happened early with some of our pitchers. You have to be patient and give guys a chance to get into the flow of the season.
“What’s really held us back is our situational hitting and our on-base percentage. If you’re going to point to anything, don’t put all the blame on the starting pitchers.”
Indeed, the Angels have been just as extreme in the clutch — in nine wins, they hit .323 (30 for 93) with runners in scoring position. In 10 losses, they’ve hit .186 (13 for 70) with runners in scoring position. Their on-base percentage: .319.
“There are a lot of things we’re not as good at as I know we will be,” Scioscia said. “But there is a lot more going right than there was 10 days ago.”
Had Pineiro gotten two more timely outs Saturday, a lot more would have gone right for the right-hander.
Pineiro was one out away from escaping jams in the fourth and fifth innings, but after striking out Ramiro Pena with the bases loaded for the second out of the fourth he gave up a two-run single to No. 9 hitter Francisco Cervelli and a run-scoring single to Derek Jeter.
That gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Pineiro gave up a leadoff triple to Brett Gardner in the fifth and got Mark Teixeira to ground to second and struck out Alex Rodriguez.
But Robinson Cano, who had four hits and three runs, hit a run-scoring single and later scored on Swisher’s single for a 6-0 lead.
“There were a lot more balls up and over the middle today, but the biggest key were the two-out runs,” Pineiro said. “Those were the dagger.”
Pineiro was no match for 37-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte, who gave up one run and six hits in eight innings, struck out eight and walked none to improve to 3-0 and lower his ERA to 1.29. Two of those wins have come against the Angels.
“The last two times Pettitte pitched against us, that’s about as good as we’ve seen him,” Scioscia said. “He’s taken a sip from the Fountain of Youth or something. He really pitched well.”
Torii Hunter was so impressed with Pettitte, a 16-year veteran, the Angels center fielder morphed into Yogi Berra in his praise of him.
“I’ve never seen Pettitte pitch this well,” Hunter said. “He looked poised. He looked like the Andy Pettitte of old, when he was young.”