Angels have time to find a winning identity

April 7, 2012

ANAHEIM — The beauty of a baseball season is that it stretches across six months, through the long, hot days of summer and into autumn. You know what a team is all about by the end of September – what its strengths are, where its weaknesses lie.

Two games aren't nearly enough to understand a team's identity.

The Angels aren't quite sure who they are right now. They might look like a team built for power and strong on pitching, but they haven't shown it yet.

"It's all going to come together, man," right fielder Torii Hunter said late Saturday afternoon. "It's the second game of the season. Our goal is to win series, not take every game. When you win series, you get there – to the show."

One day after Jered Weaver pitched a brilliant eight-inning shutout, right-hander Dan Haren struggled. The power the Angels were supposed to display in bunches has yet to materialize. On the bases, they've made mistakes.

But it's still early, right?

This will all sort itself out over time. Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals was a blip, one loss in a long season. Good teams forget about it and move on.

The Angels are a team that can score with big blasts or by collecting hits in bunches and running the bases well. But so far, they don't have a home run among their 18 hits, and they've victimized themselves by making mistakes on the bases.

Last season, they failed to score in the first five innings of a game a major-league high 50 times; they've already done it in both games this season. Saturday, catcher Bobby Wilson was picked off first base after drawing a third-inning walk, and in the fourth, Albert Pujols was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second base when he ran through a stop sign by third-base coach Dino Ebel.

"Guys might be just trying to get their sea legs under them," manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times, they're a little bit aggressive. But we'll settle in, and base running will be a big part of this club again."

Pujols picked up his first hit with his new team, a one-out double to the base of the wall in left field, but when Kendrys Morales followed with a line single to left, Pujols tried to come all the way home. He was tagged out on a close play by Royals catcher Humberto Quintero.

"Albert had a great secondary lead, ran to third base and really felt he was going to be able to score," Scioscia said. "He put his head down as Dino was putting his hands up. I think it's going to be a comfort level with Dino and Albert because when he has a good feel for a play, he wants to get going and he has a tendency to drop his head."

A run at that point might have given Haren an emotional lift, but he never got untracked. His inability to keep the ball down in the strike zone put him in continual trouble.

"I didn't make enough quality pitches," Haren said. "It's a recipe for disaster. Too many balls up in the zone, (and) I wasn't really controlling the count too well."

Those things are bound to happen, even to a team as balanced as the Angels.

"How many games – 160 games to go?" asked Hunter. "You can't panic right now. Today was one of those days."

There undoubtedly will be more. But it's April – a long way to go until September.