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Five takeaways from the Angels' Game 1 loss to the Royals

Five takeaways from the Angels' Game 1 loss to the Royals
Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton collides with the wall after making a catch on a fly ball hit by Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the fifth inning. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Angels lost Game 1 of the American League division series, 3-2, on an 11th-inning home run by Kansas City's Mike Moustakas. The loss Thursday night came to a Royals team that is quickly getting acquainted with extra innings in the postseason. Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Josh Hamilton doesn't have his timing yet

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After an 0-for-5 performance in his first game back since Sept. 16, Hamilton admitted he hasn't regained his regular comfort at the plate. He stranded runners in the seventh and ninth and popped out to end the game.

"It's tough," he said. "But if I come out tomorrow and get two hits, then you won't say anything about it. So I can't try to do too much."

Hamilton missed much of September with rib-cage and chest injuries for which he received 12 injections. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia batted Hamilton seventh in the lineup (he normally bats cleanup) to help him ease back into form.

Scioscia said Hamilton will likely get an opportunity in Game 2.

"Josh is getting a chance to get some at-bats and the swing," Scioscia said.

"You saw what he did in left field. Made a terrific play coming in, so he's going to help us."

Hamilton has hit 10 home runs in an injury-shortened season, but if he can come close to his typical output, he gives the lineup another dimension. He can produce runs on his own and also provide protection to Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

He might not have enough time, but for Scioscia, it's an alluring thought.

"If he can find that rhythm at the plate," Scioscia said, "that's going to be huge for us."

Hamilton was hardly the only player in the lineup to go hitless. If anything, Game 1 showed that…

2. Even the Angels offense can be shut down in October

The Angels led the league in runs and run differential in the regular season and caught fire down the stretch. In the postseason opener, though, the beats went quiet.

Six starters went hitless, including the team's best hitters, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick.

The heart of the order had opportunities to drive in the winning run in the sixth, eighth and 10th innings but failed to get a hit.

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"We had our shots tonight," said Kole Calhoun, who narrowly missed extra bases on the first pitch of the game and collected two hits. "We had some situations where we're one swing away from ending the game or taking the lead."

The first eight batters of the game were retired in order until Chris Iannetta broke the streak with a solo home run in his first postseason at bat. After another four outs in a row, David Freese hit a solo home run of his own.

And that was that.  From the sixth inning through the ninth inning, the Angels went 16 batters without a hit, though they did work five walks and a hit by pitch.

In his first postseason game, Trout wasn't a factor. He went 0-for-4 with three pop-outs and a walk.

"After I got that first [at bat] out of the way I felt better," Trout said.  "You want to do so much, but that's when you get in trouble."

Over 11 innings, the Royals held the Angels to just four hits and two runs. Of course, it didn't help that…

3. The Royals defense consistently steals runs

It started from the first play of the game. Calhoun drove a ball to right-center field. It looked as though it would be a double high off the wall. But Lorenzo Cain made a leaping grab to rob him of the hit.

Later Cain would make a sliding catch in center field. And Nori Aoki's no-look grab against the wall in the sixth inning stole a two-run hit from Howie Kendrick.

Later, Aoki made a catch falling backward on a ball hit to the warning track. It should have been a simple out, but Aoki made it an adventure. In any case, it prevented another run from scoring.

"Aoki killed us in the outfield," Hamilton said.

Those plays preserved a tie early for the Royals, which was bad news for the Angels because…

4. The Royals' bullpen is the real deal

Their seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning pitchers have been devastatingly effective. They have a combined earned-run average of 1.28. The addition of 2014 draft pick Brandon Finnegan adds depth.

In five innings of work, the Royals bullpen allowed just one hit and zero runs, despite putting men on base in each inning but the last.

They'll await the status of Kelvin Herrera, who has the seventh-inning role. He left after one batter with right forearm tightness. That is sometimes the sign of a UCL issue.

But even without him, they were excellent on Thursday, forcing Scioscia to decide that…

5. The Angels are willing to out-bunt the bunt-happy Royals

The Royals' wild-card game turned into a bunt fest, and the Royals were much more practiced. If anything Manager Ned Yost has been criticized for his over-reliance on the sacrifice to move runners and manufacture runs.

On Thursday, though, the Royals didn't try a single bunt, and the Angels attempted three in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to try to create something in the low-scoring affair.

Two successfully moved the runner into scoring position, though none resulted in a run.

In the eighth inning, while Calhoun was still in the dugout, he asked Scioscia if he should move the runner over if the leadoff man got on. Scioscia said yes.

Calhoun had bunted just twice during the regular season. He picked up two strikes but laid one down anyway. It popped up to the third baseman for an easy out.

"It's something that I haven't done a lot this year, but I'm completely confident in myself and getting the job done, and I got to get that one down right there," Calhoun said.

It was a bit of a departure from the normal game plan and a lesson: No one out-bunts the Royals.

Twitter: @zhelfand

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