After missing the playoffs for the first time in four years last season, this wasn't the start the Los Angeles Angels envisioned for 2011.
The Angels are in position for no better than a split of their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday after a second straight loss charged to their bullpen.
Los Angeles (1-2) was looking to get off to a quick start after finishing 80-82 last season, its first losing record since 2003.
In particular, the Angels were trying to avoid repeating the slow start they suffered last year, when they dropped their first three series. However, the Angels' bullpen has been hit hard so far.
A day after Kila Ka'aihue homered in the ninth off Michael Kohn for a 2-1 victory, Los Angeles' bullpen faltered again in a 5-4 loss Saturday. Kansas City (2-1) scored twice in the bottom of the eighth off Kevin Jepsen, with Chris Getz's RBI single scoring the go-ahead run. Getz finished with three hits and two RBIs.
Over the first three games, Los Angeles' relievers have given up five runs, 10 hits including three homers, and five walks in five innings. Jepsen is responsible for three runs and five hits in two appearances.
Catcher Bobby Wilson wasn't about to panic.
"Jep is a big part of our bullpen," he said. "He's going to be all right. I know that catching him. He'll get his stuff going right."
While the Angels' bullpen has stumbled early, Torii Hunter homered for the second time this season Saturday. He hit .394 with four homers and 12 RBIs against the Royals in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Royals are looking to win their opening series for the third time in four years, and they'll next hand the ball to Bruce Chen, who led the team with 12 wins last season.
Chen, who didn't join the rotation until the end of May, was the first Royals left-hander to win 12 games in a season since Charlie Leibrandt (13) and Floyd Bannister (12) in 1988.
Chen is 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances against the Angels. He faced them once last season and gave up one run and two hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-2 win on July 3.
The Angels will counter with Scott Kazmir, who is coming off a career-worst season after going 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA.
Kazmir went 10-9 in 2009, but was impressive after being acquired from Tampa Bay. He made six starts with Los Angeles, going 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA.
"Our goal is to get Kaz back to where he was at the end of the '09 season," manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels' official website. "It all starts with commanding the ball. ... Last year, it was tough for him to find a release point to repeat pitches."
The left-hander is 3-2 with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts against the Royals with wins in the last two. He made one start against them last season and gave up one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 win on June 2.