No team in baseball will be happier to see the calendar flip from August to September than the Angels.
With Monday’s 11-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics, the Angels finished the month with an American League-worst 19 losses and a major league-low 86 runs scored. It was the team’s worst month since August of 1999 — and the worst month in the Mike Scioscia era.
But if that’s the bad news, here’s the good: there’s another month left in the season. And if the Angels can turn the page quickly, they still have a chance to salvage a spot in the postseason.
Because while that 1999 team finished 24 games back in the wild-card standings, this year’s team enters September with a losing record yet trailing the Texas Rangers by just 3 1/2 games in the race the final playoff berth. And the Angels play the Rangers seven times in the next 4 1/2 weeks.
“We’re in this, but we need to some things a little bit better,” Scioscia said. “The challenge of the season is its length and you need to be consistent.
“We need to pick up our game and get it to a level that we can do some of the things we need to do to reach out goal. And that’s all we’re going to focus on.”
Here’s something else to focus on: As a team the Angels have lost four straight, nine of their last 11 and 17 of 20 on the road, dropping below .500 for the first time since June 10 and falling a season-high 7 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West.
Thirty-six days ago the Angels led the division.
Getting back to the top isn’t going to happen this season, nor will the Angels stay in the wild-card chase much longer if they don’t play a lot better than they did Monday, when Hector Santiago lost all sense of the strike zone while extending his personal winless streak to eight starts.
With Erick Aybar driving in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly and C.J. Cron adding another by swiping home as part of a double steal, Santiago took the mound in the bottom of the third with a 3-0 lead. But he promptly gave that back — and then some — missing the strike zone on 15 of his last 19 pitches.
“That’s why your mechanics go a little bit, when you start aiming,” said Santiago, who has walked 13 batters in his last four starts, just one fewer than he walked in June and July combined. “It’s a different story when you’re behind in the count.”
Danny Valencia and Jake Smolinski hit two of the ones that found the plate for bases-loaded doubles, giving the Athletics to a 5-3 lead and chasing Santiago after just 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
An all-star a month ago, Santiago (7-9) went 0-4 with a 6.21 ERA in six starts during the Angels’ August slide. And after he left Monday’s game, Valencia doubled home another run off reliever Fernando Salas in the fifth before Mark Canha put the game away with a three-run homer off Jose Alvarez in the sixth. Oakland would add two more runs in the eighth, marking the seventh time in 11 games Angel pitches have allowed at least eight runs, sending the staff’s August ERA soaring to 5.15.
Angels hitters scored that many runs in a game just twice in August.
“August is over,” Santiago said afterward. “September here we come.”
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (6-9, 4.48 ERA) will oppose Oakland right-hander Cody Martin (2-3, 5.40 for Atlanta) at O.co Coliseum on Tuesday at 7 p.m. TV: FS West Radio: 830, 1330.