After Sunday’s 12-5 shellacking administered by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Angels did not open their clubhouse for about 30 minutes after the final out, an unusually long delay.
Before anyone went in or out, there were problems to work through.
“We talked about a couple things,” Manager Mike Scioscia said.
There was a lot to talk about. Sunday was the Angels’ fourth loss in a row, a stretch in which they’ve been outscored 44-12. Even for the high-octane Blue Jays, the weekend was unprecedented: Never before has Toronto scored 36 runs in a three-game series.
In the field, the Angels committed two more errors, making six on the series. The offense finally asserted itself, then shrunk back over the final 25 outs. For good measure, there was a base-running gaffe.
The Angels have slid to third place in the American League West, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Houston Astros, and 1 1/2 behind the Texas Rangers in the wild card.
Facing that, the team held its closed-door post-mortem. But the problem, said Scioscia, is not one of work ethic or confidence.
“I’m not going to comment on what was said and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Scioscia said. “But there’s no doubt that the confidence that this team has, has to show up on the field.”
“The leadership in there is fine,” Scioscia added.
Afterward, at his locker, first baseman Albert Pujols declined to speak about the meeting.
“That’s not your guys’ business,” he said.
He declined to speak about any building frustration.
“Frustration? Why?” he said. “It’s a tough weekend. Now you’re going to put words in my mouth? I’m done talking.”
Little could be said that the Angels’ play didn’t say already. Sunday’s start did actually inspire hope. In their first trip through the lineup, the Angels batted 1.000. They tagged knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for five runs in the first inning, powered in part by a run-scoring single from C.J. Cron, a run-scoring double from Caleb Cowart and a run-scoring triple from Mike Trout. They led 5-1.
The Blue Jays would lead by the third inning.
Right-hander Garrett Richards gave up runs in the first four innings. For the first three, the Blue Jays mostly singled him into submission, but in the fourth, Jose Bautista blasted a home run so far that Richards already had the next baseball and had returned to the rubber by the time it landed, some 440 feet away.
The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, smoked another home run next to the left-field foul pole.
“I was just kind of flat today,” Richards said. “Slider wasn’t really sliding.”
The one, and perhaps only, positive: Richards became the first Angels starter in the past four games to make it out of the fourth inning. With a taxed bullpen, Scoiscia had little choice. Richards endured five innings, allowed nine runs, seven earned, and gave up 10 hits.
The infield did little to help. In the second inning, the usually sure-handed Cowart was eaten up by a ground ball at third base, and two runs scored on the play. Shortstop Erick Aybar’s error let a run score in the third inning.
In the fifth inning, left fielder David Murphy seemingly led off with an easy double. He beat the throw with plenty of time, but a review of his slide showed his foot popped off the base by perhaps an inch. He was called out. The budding rally was nipped.
“We just didn’t do anything the way we need to this weekend,” Scioscia said.
Before the game, Scioscia tried to keep perspective. He said he played on teams where it felt like they couldn’t lose.
Other times, he said, “you don’t know if you’re ever going to win a game. It’s just, it’s overwhelming how poor you’re playing.”
The lesson was, all rallies end and every slump abates. As Richards put it, “Nobody in here is panicking.” But the Angels’ August will not make their September any easier.
“There’s a lot of baseball left,” Trout said. “We can’t hang our heads now.”