Angels beat A’s, 4-0, then fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher


The first major repercussion from the Angels’ disappointing 16-21 start occurred Tuesday night when the team announced that hitting coach Mickey Hatcher had been fired.

He will be replaced by Jim Eppard, hitting coach at triple-A Salt Lake City.

Hatcher’s departure, announced after a 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday afternoon, ends a 13-year run with the Angels and an even longer relationship with Manager Mike Scioscia. The two played together with the Dodgers, and Hatcher, 57, served as Scioscia’s hitting instructor when Scioscia managed the Dodgers’ minor league team in Albuquerque in 1999.

“Sometimes in the sports world a point is reached where perhaps a new voice is needed in order to attain the desired goals and objectives,” Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we feel this is one of those times.

Offensively, we have underachieved and everyone shares in the responsibility of what has transpired thus far.”

The Angels have scored 134 runs this season — only seven big league teams have scored fewer — and have been shut out a major league-leading eight times. They are 1-17 when scoring three runs or fewer, and they’ve been limited to two runs or fewer 13 times.

Contacted Tuesday night, Hatcher said of his dismissal, “It’s baseball. It happens. All I can say is good things. I’ve had a great run with them. They pay me as a hitting coach to make a difference and it definitely wasn’t happening this year.”

Scioscia was not available for comment after the firing was announced. Asked about the manager’s reaction, Hatcher said. “He was very disappointed and frustrated but that’s friends. I told him how it is. You don’t take things personal. We’ve had some great times.”

Hatcher said the hiring of Eppard, who has worked with many of the Angels who came up through the organization, should provide a smooth transition.

“In my opinion, they’re ready to turn it around,” he said. “I just think before the season is over, you’re going to see this team back in it.”

Scioscia has been one of Hatcher’s most loyal supporters, but Hatcher angered new Angels slugger Albert Pujols last month when he talked to reporters about what was said at a closed-door hitters meeting.

Hatcher also has been a polarizing figure among Angels fans, many of whom seem to call for his firing whenever the team goes into an extended slump, which has been often.

Pujols has been in a season-long slump, with just one home run in 146 at-bats. Frustration has been growing throughout the Angels organization because of the failure to meet expectations.

“Everyone has to play better, one to 25,” pitcher Dan Haren said before Tuesday’s game. “There will be a point in time it’s going to turn around.”

Perhaps there was a sign of changing luck Tuesday. Pujols twice hit ground balls that went off gloves for RBI infield singles and got a third infield single by avoiding a tag at first. His average went from .197 to .212 with his first three-hit game since April 19. He has 14 runs batted in.

“He’s still not as comfortable as we anticipated, but he contributed a lot today and that’s big,” Scioscia said after the game.

The top three hitters in the lineup — Mike Trout, Alberto Callaspo and Pujols — were a combined eight for 12.

Luck is also changing for pitcher Ervin Santana (2-6), who didn’t get a run in five straight starts but has been given eight in his last two outings. He struck out nine and allowed four hits in 72/3 innings to help the Angels end a four-game losing streak against the A’s.

After giving up a double to Josh Reddick in the first inning, Santana retired 16 consecutive batters until a single by Jemile Weeks with two outs in the sixth.

“I felt great today,” Santana said.

Trout had three hits, including a home run in the seventh. The 20-year-old raised his average to .316, scored three runs and continues to show glimpses of his immense skills. “He’s tremendous,” Santana said. “He’s one of those guys who has all the tools.”

Trout and company collected 12 hits off former Angel Bartolo Colon (3-4) in 62/3 innings but they didn’t exactly pound the ball. Four were infield singles and several others found holes.

But the Angels will take their luck where they find it.

Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.