The current state of the Angels was summed up Friday when Tampa Bay scored on a ball that had an estimated exit velocity of 1 mph and traveled maybe 18 inches.
Even more fitting was the fact the run scored only because of an error by Martin Maldonado, the Angels’ Gold Glove catcher who was unable to pick up the ball cleanly and make the tag.
The misplay helped the Rays to an 8-3 victory that extended a run of misery for the Angels.
Since their 13-3 start, they are 12-17. They’ve lost four in a row and six of eight and right now resemble a team in need of a serious break.
That might come Saturday, when the Rays are scheduled to start Sergio Romo, whose previous 588 big-league appearances all have been in relief. After an inning or two of Romo, left-hander Ryan Yarbrough is set to enter.
Who knows? Perhaps this latest version of a “bullpen day” might be just odd enough to shake awake the Angels, especially their offense.
“We’ve faced some good arms,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But these guys are talented enough, we should be able to do a little bit better than we’ve been doing these past 10 days.”
Entering Friday, the Angels were hitting .179 (34 for 190) over their previous six games and had scored 12 runs in their past 63 innings.
Their only rally of more than one run in the past week had come Tuesday when Justin Upton hit a two-run homer in the first inning.
Other than that, it had been all zeroes or ones on the scoreboard, with a lot more zeroes, to be sure.
Even worse, they’ve now lost nine of their last 10 at home to Tampa Bay, an organization that this spring was part of a grievance filed by the players association accusing certain teams of not trying hard enough to win.
Instead, the Rays have taken the first two games of this series, the latest victory aided by the bizarre-looking, aforementioned suicide squeeze by Johnny Field.
He dropped his bunt directly in front of home plate with Christian Arroyo dashing in from third. Maldonado couldn’t execute the play as he fell down while attempting to get back to tag Arroyo.
Even before the game began, the Angels were playing from behind. They didn’t have Upton, their leading RBI producer who was hit in the left hand Thursday by a Chris Archer fastball.
Upton’s absence — considered short term — led Scioscia to drop Mike Trout to third and elevate Andrelton Simmons to the No. 2 spot behind Zack Cozart.
Scioscia also opted to not start Ian Kinsler, who’s batting .205, moving Cozart to second base and inserting Jefry Marte at third.
Maldonado was moved up to seventh, followed by Chris Young and debuting rookie Michael Hermosillo, who started in right field in place of the struggling Kole Calhoun and doubled in his first at-bat before striking out three times.
“There’s a long way to go,” Scioscia said. “We have a lot of confidence in what we’re going to do in the batter’s box.
Still, all his changes Friday produced a two-run single by Simmons in the fifth and only one other swing of note: Trout ended his career-worst hitless streak at 21 at-bats when he hit his 13th homer leading off the eighth.
“He was pretty sure he was going to get another hit this year,” Scioscia said. “He’s been working very hard this week. It was good to see him get a-hold of one.”
Nick Tropeano’s start went to pieces in the third, when the Rays sent all nine hitters to the plate. He gave up a two-run homer to Wilson Ramos and an RBI single to Mallex Smith and was pulled after a walk to Arroyo.
Tampa Bay led 4-0 at that point and the prospect of this slumbering offense suddenly lurching to life against left-hander Blake Snell seemed remote.
Tropeano’s performance ended a franchise-record 17 consecutive games in which an Angels starter gave up three or fewer runs.