ANAHEIM, Calif. – If the Angels hadn’t already experienced this before, it would seem incomprehensible. But they know all about horrendous starts.
They went through the same thing last year, and now here they are again, nine games into the new season and it’s starting again.
The Angels’ 8-1 loss to the Oakland A’s on Thursday night was their fourth loss in a row and left them with a 2-7 record – the franchise’s worst mark after nine games since its inaugural season in 1961 when it started 1-8.
But the Angels don’t have to go that far back to recall such a disappointing start to the season. Last year, they were 3-6 after nine games, 8-15 at the end of April and on their way to a third-place finish in the American League West.
It has an eerily familiar feeling.
“I guess in a way, a little bit,” designated hitter Mark Trumbo said. “We’ve obviously shown we’re capable of coming out of it. It’s just a matter of doing a few of the small things, and hopefully that will lead to some bigger things.”
Before the game, manager Mike Scioscia tried shaking up his batting order, dropping phenom Mike Trout from leadoff to No. 2 as a way to bunch his power hitters in the lineup. But that’s not the problem with the Angels; it’s everything else.
They have yet to have a starting pitcher work into the seventh inning. Their bullpen has been less than steady. Their offense was limited to five hits – and none after the fourth inning — against A’s starter A.J. Griffin and reliever Evan Scribner.
And as if all that weren’t bad enough, now they’re dealing with a new injury.
Third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who was elevated from seventh in the batting order to first, experienced tightness in his right calf and left the game after the seventh. The Angels are already short an infielder with shortstop Erick Aybar out with a contusion in his left heel, and No. 1 starter Jered Weaver is out a few more weeks while a broken bone in his left elbow heals.
The silver lining? The Houston Astros, universally considered the most woeful team in the majors, is coming to town for three games.
But right now, the Angels need to figure out how to find some consistency on offense and some reliability in the bullpen. Starter Jason Vargas couldn’t make it out of the sixth inning, leaving with a 3-1 deficit, but reliever Kevin Jepsen gave up a two-run double to the first batter he faced, Chris Young, that padded Oakland’s lead.
“They’re just not getting it done the way they have the capabilities to,” Scioscia said. “Right now, there’s a lot of things out of sync on the pitching side, and we need to get each guy where they need to be.”
It will have to come soon. There were boos again from an Angel Stadium turnout of 43,533, and the crowd had dwindled to less than half full by the eighth. It was already clear the Angels looked lifeless with no chance to catch up.
So what now?
“You have to be optimistic,” Trumbo said. “We have too much talent to not be. It’s very unfortunate that we’re in the place we are, but that’s the reality. We look forward to keep grinding things away and weather the storm until we click and start taking it to people.”
Maybe it will happen against the Astros. If it doesn’t, the Angels will dig themselves a hole just as they did in 2012.
“I don’t think anybody likes to lose,” Vargas said. “Everybody gets frustrated when that happens, but I think everybody believes in the team we’ve got here and understands that we’ve got a lot of good players. It’s going to turn around and we’re going to have some fun.”