Angels’ 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn’t cut it with Torii Hunter
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Not only are the Angels not hitting, they’re not stealing bases, bunting, executing hit-and-run plays and pushing the envelope offensively, all trademarks of Mike Scioscia-managed teams.
They’re not scratching and clawing or sacrificing themselves enough for the team, and those deficiencies, as well as an inability to hit in the clutch, were evident again Wednesday night in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
Albert Pujols extended his hitless streak to 19 at-bats over five games, his average falling to .222, and his homerless string to 72 at-bats over 18 games, as the Angels dropped to 6-12 and fell 81/2 games behind Texas in the American League West.
The Angels were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, their season average falling to .236 in those situations, and they failed to score after a leadoff double in the first inning and after loading the bases with one out in the second.
“You have to dig deep,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “We can’t get down in the first two innings and say, ‘Here we go again.’ We have to fight a little harder. I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard. We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. That’s everybody; not just the players.”
Hunter’s remark seemed to be a veiled criticism of Scioscia for not having Maicer Izturis bunt after Hunter and Vernon Wells opened the second with singles. Izturis flied to left. Erick Aybar reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases, but Chris Iannetta struck out and Bobby Abreu grounded out.
Scioscia also left himself open to second-guessing by leaving Jason Isringhausen in the game to issue four walks, including one with the bases loaded, in the eighth and for using Alberto Callaspo instead of Mark Trumbo to pinch-hit in the ninth with the tying run on base. Callaspo hit a first-pitch, game-ending fly to left.
Asked if the game could have changed with some early execution, Hunter said, “You mean if we bunted in the second? What can we do? All we do is play the game.”
They’re not playing it as they usually do. After Abreu’s leadoff double in the first, Howie Kendrick fouled off one bunt in an attempt to move the runner before striking out. Pujols and Kendrys Morales grounded out to end the inning.
“You can’t sugarcoat it -- situational hitting is critical for us, and not only with runners in scoring position,” Scioscia said. “We had a chance to move a couple runners and didn’t. When you’re playing close games, those little things are really going to count.”
The Angels aren’t doing the big things -- they’re last in the AL with 12 homers, though Wells hit a solo shot in the fourth Wednesday -- or the little things to maximize offense.
They have one stolen base in nine games and nine on the season, five coming against Minnesota on April 12. Their fastest runners, Peter Bourjos (.186) and Aybar (.242), haven’t been on base enough to wreak havoc. They have a .303 team on-base percentage.
“You can’t force a stolen base,” Scioscia said. “We’ve hit and run but fouled some pitches off. We haven’t had the right situation to put guys in motion at times.”
An attempt to be aggressive backfired in the fifth when Iannetta, running on a full-count pitch, was thrown out at second after Abreu struck out.
Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson (2-2) gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings and struck out 11, one short of his career high, but two mistakes in the third led to Ben Zobrist’s solo homer and Jeff Keppinger’s run-scoring double.
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