ANAHEIM, Calif. — The day started with a celebration, but it ended glumly again for the Los Angeles Angels. No matter what they do, it doesn’t seem to come out well.
Their losses are starting to look bizarre. Thursday night at Angel Stadium, they outhit the Oakland A’s but left 11 base runners and lost 4-2. Every little thing works against them; every mistake comes back to haunt them.
Albert Pujols had three doubles, but the one he hit in the fifth inning missed clearing the fence in left field by a matter of inches. He now has gone 13 games and 54 at-bats without a homer for his new team, the longest homerless stretch of his career.
“It happens,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow I hit one.”
Maybe, maybe not. The Angels need some kind of kick-start, but they can’t get one, not from Pujols and not from pitcher C.J. Wilson, who had been their best starter but had one unfortunate stretch in the fourth inning that cost his team the game.
The day had so much promise. In the late morning, the team held a news conference near Disneyland for shortstop Erick Aybar, who signed a four-year extension worth $35 million. He was presented with his first Gold Glove before the game, and fans were given T-shirts commemorating his achievement as they came through the turnstiles.
Then Aybar committed two errors.
The eight starting position players, hoping to turn their luck, pulled their white pants high and exposed more of their red socks, but the slump-busting gimmick failed to work. The Angels have dropped seven of their past nine games, trail the Texas Rangers by seven games in the American League West and have yet to win two in a row.
Who would have guessed that the Dodgers (10-3) would be six games better at this stage of the season than the Angels (4-9)?
“We’re going to turn it around. There’s no doubt,” manager Mike Scioscia said, repeating a familiar mantra. “These guys are talented.”
That might be true, but the way their season is going, the Angels can hardly afford to make even the smallest errors. Wilson walked the first two batters he faced in the fourth when he lost his release point, and then hurt himself when he fielded a slow roller off the bat of Seth Smith and lobbed a throw that bounced in the dirt in front of Pujols at first. By the time the Angels first baseman scrambled to recover the ball, both runners scored.
“I tried to lob it in there,” Wilson said, “but it just didn’t get there.”
“It’s a game of inches, obviously,” he added. “We had a couple of balls that went off the fence instead of over the fence for us on offense. But the bottom line is, I shouldn’t have allowed all those runs. We should’ve won the game 2-1.”
The Angels had plenty of chances to get back in the game, and although they scored two in the bottom of the fourth, they still stranded too many runners. They left two on base in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
Scioscia called it a silver lining, but he lamented the fact his team couldn’t keep the pressure on enough to tie the score or take the lead.
The Angels were outscored 15-5 in the final three games of the series against the A’s, a team they should have dominated. Now the Baltimore Orioles come to Anaheim for three. The O’s lost 93 games last season but are 8-5 and lead the AL East.
At the start of the season, the Angels hoped to get fat off of opponents such as Oakland and Baltimore. No more.
“We just have to flip the page and come back tomorrow and hopefully get a good streak going,” Pujols said.
“We know things could be better, but they’re not. It’s not because we’re not trying. We’re trying to have good quality at-bats, but things aren’t going our way.”
At some point, they’ve got to turn around. When that will be, no one knows.