ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Angels are trudging painfully toward the finish line.
They are struggling to win games, even at home. On Monday night, as they began the final six weeks of the regular season, their lineup looked like a skeleton of what it should have been.
There was no Mike Trout, who sat out with a sore right hamstring. There was no Howie Kendrick, who is still on the disabled list with a hyperextended left knee. There was no Albert Pujols, whose comeback from an injured left foot ended suddenly when he was shut down for the season.
The Angels lost again, this time 5-2 to the Cleveland Indians, their 11th in 15 games and dropped them to a season-worst 14 games below .500. At Angel Stadium, their record is 31-35.
Not even Jered Weaver, their ace, could stop their fall.
Weaver had one tough inning, the fourth, when he faced nine batters and gave up four runs and five hits. But that was too much for the Angels to overcome.
Trout, whose .333 batting average is second best in the American League, sat out for only the second game this season. That’s something the Angels can ill afford.
“It’s tough not having him in the lineup,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s tough not having Albert in the lineup. It’s tough not having Howie in the lineup. There’s a lot of things that the foundation of our offense is built on that are missing right now, and the other guys have to pick it up.
“We didn’t set up many innings tonight, but Mike’s dynamic ability is something you’re going to miss at any time.”
There was no one to pick up the slack. Mark Trumbo drove in the Angels’ only runs with a run-scoring single in the fourth and a solo home run in the ninth, but there were few other opportunities. The Angels hit into three double plays, one of them coming when Trumbo was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third on a fly ball to right by Chris Nelson in the fourth.
These games are essentially auditions for the players who are trying to impress the Angels in the final months. But success can be difficult. Nelson, for instance, had a five-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, then struck out three times Monday.
“Some guys are getting an opportunity to play and show what they can do,” Scioscia said. “The toughest thing in this whole game when you make the jump from Triple-A and try to get to the big leagues is to make a footprint.
“There’s going to be some growing pains. There’s going to be some nights where some of those guys are going to look overmatched. It’s just part of the growth of a young player.”
No one was faulting Weaver, who gave up nine runs in five innings last Wednesday against the Yankees. But one bad inning was enough to ruin his night.
“I just had one blowup inning, and it ended up being the difference in the game,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating, but I have to keep working and throwing the ball and see if I can turn things around.”
That goes for everyone else. Even though their season is lost, the Angels want nothing more than finish strongly. Their pride is at stake.
“You’ve still got to go out there,” Weaver said. “You’ve got a job to do, and you’ve got to finish it out.”
The results might not be there, but Scioscia believes his players are still trying.
“Our guys are playing as hard as they possibly can play,” he said. “You’re seeing guys hustling, you’re seeing guys diving for balls in the infield and outfield. You’re seeing the effort that we need.
“On the flip side, these guys know every day we take the field we’re out there to win a game. And they understand that. They’re taking this as hard as anybody.”