Angels still don't have the right answers
ANAHEIM, Calif. — What was supposed to be a grand opportunity to make up ground in the American League West turned into a disaster of a homestand for the Angels.
Their hopes were so high, but by late Sunday afternoon their clubhouse was again a picture of quiet desolation. They were swept at home by the Tampa Bay Rays, and no matter how positive they tried to spin it, things are looking worse by the day.
"It feels like somebody has a voodoo doll and has been messin' with us," outfielder Torii Hunter said.
It could be the Rays, who took four in a row from the Angels and won in every possible manner. They came back from an 8-0 deficit on Saturday to win 10-8, then cruised to an 8-3 victory on Sunday behind the pitching of rookie Matt Moore.
"They took it to us," manager Mike Scioscia said. "They kicked our butts."
They also made the Angels' primary task — making the playoffs — even more difficult. The 3-7 record on the homestand dropped them nine games behind first-place Texas in the AL West, their biggest deficit since the last day of April, and 4½ games out of the wild card picture.
Now they go on the road for three games each at Boston and Detroit, two clubs also contending for playoffs spots.
"We still have time. We're still not out of it," catcher Bobby Wilson said. "Everybody knows that. Once we get out of this, we'll have a fun stretch."
Time is running out. The loss was the Angels' ninth in 12 games and left them with a 14-22 record since the All-Star break. The 10 games they just played against Seattle, Cleveland and Tampa Bay could have signaled their turnaround — in fact, they had every reason to believe they could go 7-3 — but it sunk them deeper in a hole.
The starting pitching has been horrendous. Left-hander CJ Wilson blew an eight-run lead Saturday, and Zack Greinke — whose arrival in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers last month was supposed to put them over the top — made just enough mistakes Sunday to give the Rays a 4-0 lead in the second inning.
The trouble was his own making. He loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, then hit No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson with a pitch to force in one run and walked BJ Upton with two outs to force in another.
"It was a bad inning, but overall I haven't been pitching good since I've been here," said Greinke, who is 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in five starts. "I just need to get back on track. It's been pretty awful. It doesn't feel good.
"I've got to just pitch my game and not try to do more. It's been embarrassing the first month I've been here. I'm getting paid a lot to do better than I'm doing."
Pitching has been the core of the Angels' problems in their downturn. This month, starters have a 6.53 ERA and have given up 22 home runs in 103 1/3 innings.
In the series, the Rays beat Greinke, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and reliever Kevin Jepsen. The Angels haven't had a win from a starter since Ervin Santana last Wednesday.
"We have some good pitchers that are not performing to their capabilities," Scioscia said. "That's been going on for some time. These guys are good players. Our job is to get them to play to their potential, and right now we're not getting it out of some players."
Scioscia has tried everything. There have been two team meetings in the past week, and the message has been the same: It's not over yet. One good streak will turn things around. It can happen any time.
But it will be September soon, and then they will have to produce or wonder where it all went wrong.
"I've seen miracles happen," Hunter said. "I'm just waiting for a miracle."
The way things are going, it may take one to save the Angels.