The Angels have used “Calling All Angels” as the soundtrack to their pregame video montage since 2004, but it might be time to sub out the Train song for a Green Day hit that more appropriately captures the mood for this season: “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
It’s only mid-August, and there are 44 games left, but the Angels, five-time division winners and World Series champions in the first decade of this century, are buried in the American League West.
They lost to Seattle, 3-2, on Monday night to fall 20 games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers and extend their losing streak to a franchise record-tying 11 games, done in 1974, 1992 and 1999.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight batters to drop the Angels to 49-69, the sixth-worst record in the majors. It’s the first time the Angels have been 20 games under .500 since the end of 1999, when they were 70-92.
“It’s disappointing we’re out of it this early,” said John, a 51-year-old season-ticket holder from Orange who sat in the club level Monday but declined to give his last name. “Everyone I’ve talked to has given up hope for this year, but next year is another year, you never know.”
There was a glimmer of hope after the All-Star break when the Angels won 12 of 18 games to pull to within 12 1/2 games of Texas behind an offense that averaged 5.3 runs during the stretch, a patchwork rotation that kept the team in games and a bullpen bolstered by hard-throwing 24-year-old Cam Bedrosian.
Then the bats went cold, averaging three runs during the 11-game skid; the starting pitching faltered, fashioning an 8.25 earned-run average during the streak, and huge fissures developed in a bullpen that lost Bedrosian and closer Huston Street to injuries and setup man Joe Smith to a trade.
“We had a period in July where the pitching and hitting were clicking at the same time, and right now, they’re not,” General Manager Billy Eppler said. “That’s part of the game. You travel those peaks and valleys throughout the season. But without a question, the effort is still there.”
That was evident in the seventh inning Monday night, when Kole Calhoun made a leaping catch above the short right-field wall to rob Kyle Seager of a two-run home run. The results, however, have not been there.
The Tim Lincecum experiment was a disaster. The veteran right-hander, signed in the hope he would regain some of his Cy Young Award-winning form, was 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in nine starts before being demoted to triple-A last week.
Matt Shoemaker, dominant in June (2.14 ERA in six starts), experienced a natural regression, going 3-5 with a 4.38 ERA in eight starts since July 3. Jered Weaver pitched as he has all season, sometimes effectively but usually not, as his 8-10 record and 5.32 ERA reflects.
Tyler Skaggs returned to earth after throwing 12 1/3 scoreless innings in his first two starts back from elbow surgery; the left-hander was strafed for 11 runs and 19 hits in 101/3 innings of his last two starts.
And Ricky Nolasco was so-so in his first two starts after being acquired from Minnesota, though he pitched decently Monday night, giving up three runs and eight hits, including Nelson Cruz’s solo homer in the fifth, in 5 1/3 innings.
A late-April rib-cage strain derailed Street, who had a 6.45 ERA when he returned to the disabled list Aug. 2 because of a knee injury. Bedrosian, the team’s best reliever with a 1.12 ERA in 45 games, hasn’t pitched since Aug. 3 because of a finger injury. The bullpen has a 4.71 ERA during the losing streak.
The Angels had 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position in two games at Kansas City on July 26-27. They have 50 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the last 11 games, collecting 11 hits for a .220 average in those situations.
With Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry providing no offense in left field — both were designated for assignment July 30 — and first baseman C.J. Cron breaking a bone in his left hand July 8, the Angels have relied heavily on players such as Jefry Marte and Ji-Man Choi, who are more suited for reserve roles.
The lineup, most nights, drops off precipitously after Yunel Escobar, Calhoun, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons.
And it’s no coincidence the skid came against two of the best teams in baseball — the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians — and the surging Mariners, who have won nine of 10 games.
“Obviously, losing stinks,” said Trout, who hit a 446-foot solo homer to center field in the fifth inning Monday night, giving him seven home runs against Hernandez, the most the right-hander has given up to any player.
“The year hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go, but for the guys in here, we’re still fighting, we’re not giving up, and that’s all you can ask for. We’re grinding, trying to put a streak together. We’re going to play hard and finish it out.”