The more things change, the more they remain the maddening same for the Angels.
Their 102nd different lineup of the season, one that included Juan Rivera at first base, couldn’t generate enough offense in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night at Angel Stadium after starter Scott Kazmir dropped the Angels in an early four-run hole.
Rivera was two for four with a double, but the Angels were one for 11 with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times.
“There’s not a lot of tweaking we can do to the lineup when so many guys aren’t swinging it,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Certainly, if you look at the options we have to play guys, I don’t think there’s an impact thing that’s going to happen that would make a difference right now.”
Hideki Matsui got the Angels’ only clutch hit, a third-inning double off center fielder B.J. Upton’s glove as he leaped at the wall in left-center field, driving in two runs to halve what had been a 4-0 deficit.
Peter Bourjos cut the Angels’ deficit to 4-3 in the seventh inning after he led off with a single up the middle and stole second base with one out, advancing to third base when catcher Kelly Shoppach’s throw rolled into center field.
Howie Kendrick drove in Bourjos with a sacrifice fly to left field.
But it wasn’t enough as the final eight Angels batters went in order, including three strikeouts against closer Rafael Soriano, who needed only nine pitches to plow through the ninth inning.
“We really need to look in-house here and create an offense that’s going to pressure teams,” Scioscia said. “The names are not going to change.”
The Angels fell two games below .500 after losing for the seventh time in 10 games to drop nine games behind Texas in the American League West. They play 11 of their next 17 games at home, where they are five games over .500, but they must start winning games in large chunks to have any chance to move back into the postseason hunt.
Kazmir (8-11) put the Angels in an immediate bind when Upton blasted his first pitch over the left-field wall for a homer, and things deteriorated from there. Kazmir hit Jason Bartlett with a pitch and walked Carl Crawford before making an errant pickoff throw that allowed both runners to move up one base before Ben Zobrist’s two-run single.
“It puts pressure on everyone when you start the game down three runs,” Kazmir said. “It seems like you have to dig yourself out of a hole.”
Kazmir sunk the Angels into an even deeper void an inning later. Former Angel Sean Rodriguez doubled off the heel of center fielder Bourjos’ glove and scored on Upton’s double to left field.
Kazmir gave up five hits and four runs in 51/3 innings, a pitching line that would have been considerably worse had Bourjos not robbed Upton of a three-run homer with a leaping catch at the wall in the sixth inning on Upton’s drive against Michael Kohn.