Angels yield more ground to the Rangers in 8-4 loss
The end of the season was not near Monday night, though it sure seemed a lot closer for the Angels, who were thoroughly outplayed in an 8-4 loss to Texas that pushed them five games behind the Rangers in the American League West.
An already thin Angels rotation took another hit when Garrett Richards, making his second big league start, was removed because of a right groin strain with two out in the first inning.
An already suspect middle relief corps took another body blow in the fifth, when Hisanori Takahashi and Rich Thompson combined to give up six runs and five hits, including consecutive home runs by Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.
A usually feeble offense showed some fight against tough right-hander Alexi Ogando (12-5), who was nicked for four runs and eight hits in 61/3 innings after giving up one earned run in 22 innings of two previous victories over the Angels this season.
But right-hander Koji Uehara, one of two relievers Texas acquired before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline while the Angels sat idle, replaced Ogando in the seventh and threw 12/3 hitless innings.
Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless ninth, as the Rangers won for the ninth time in 11 games. The Angels lost for the fifth time in six games, dropping 31/2 games in the standings.
“We have 40 games left, we can’t focus on trying to catch one team,” Manager Mike Scioscia said after the opener of an important four-game series. “We need to play consistent baseball every night. As you keep struggling with some things, that opportunity narrows.”
Richards, called up from double-A Arkansas last week, gave up a leadoff double to Ian Kinsler, who advanced to third on catcher Bobby Wilson’s errant pickoff throw to second and scored on Elvis Andrus’ grounder.
Josh Hamilton grounded out and Michael Young reached on an infield hit. On his 19th pitch, to Cruz, Richards landed awkwardly and clutched his groin area. He was replaced by Bobby Cassevah, who gave up one run in 22/3 innings.
Although the Angels were relieved their top pitching prospect did not suffer an arm injury, Richards is expected to go on the disabled list, and the Angels will probably call up two minor league relievers Tuesday to bolster a bullpen that threw 72/3 innings.
The injury could open the door for struggling right-hander Joel Pineiro to reclaim a starting role. Pineiro gave up three hits in three scoreless innings Monday, striking out the side — Young, Cruz and Napoli — in the seventh.
“We’re definitely going to give him strong consideration,” Scioscia said.
Takahashi, who started for 10 seasons in Japan, was probably a candidate until Monday.
After retiring the final two batters of the fourth, Takahashi gave up singles to Mitch Moreland and Kinsler to open the fifth. He then fielded Andrus’ bunt and threw wildly past third, allowing Moreland to score and the runners to advance.
Third baseman Alberto “Callaspo was coming in, and I was yelling, ‘One, one, one,’ and pointing to first,” Wilson said. “There was lot of crowd noise. He thought he had a shot at third, and he made an aggressive play. It just didn’t work out.”
Hamilton struck out, but Young’s two-run single to left-center field gave Texas a 5-1 lead. Cruz greeted Thompson with a two-run homer to left-center field, giving him 26 homers and 77 runs batted in, and Napoli, the former Angels catcher, hit a solo shot to center field, his 19th, to make it 8-1.
The Angels scored in the fifth inning on Erick Aybar’s single and Maicer Izturis’ run-scoring double. They closed to within 8-4 when Russell Branyan hit his second pinch-hit homer in three games, a two-run shot to center field against Ogando in the seventh.
But the hole was too deep for the Angels to dig out of.
“We made some untimely errors that cost us a couple of runs,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “If we make those plays, you never know, things might be different. You let the Rangers stay alive, they eat you up.”