Temperatures are on the rise in the Southland, but expectations for the Angels are dropping in a hurry.
Their starting pitching is proving to be far less than invincible. Their team batting average has fallen more than 10 points--into the .250s--in the last two weeks. And they've averaged fewer than two runs in their last nine losses.
Tuesday night, the Angels lost for the 10th time in 14 outings as Toronto pounded out 13 hits en route to a 6-2 victory before 23,956 at Anaheim Stadium.
A bit of dry desert air traditionally turns the Big A into Cape Canaveral West for hitters and Tuesday night was no exception. Toronto's Tony Fernandez and Nelson Liriano combined for three home runs, one fewer than their combined season total before the game.
The game lasted more than 2 1/2 hours, but was over in a matter of minutes.
Angel starter Kirk McCaskill brought the league's third-best earned-run average (2.42) and a 7-3 record to the mound with him. He left after only 1 2/3 innings--the second shortest stint of his career--with a quickly bloated ERA of 2.87.
The Angel rotation was once the toast of the league, but McCaskill has lost three in a row. Chuck Finley has lost four in a row. And Mike Witt is 1-4 in his last six starts.
McCaskill, who had given up only four home runs in his last 21 games, was serving up the long ball like a batting-practice pitcher this time out.
Fernandez had the first two-homer game of his career and he reached that milestone in the second inning with back-to-back home runs to right in his first two at-bats, both coming on 3-2 deliveries from McCaskill.
And Liriano hit his second home run of the year in the second inning.
McCaskill had allowed the Blue Jays only two earned runs in 16 1/3 innings this season before Tuesday night, but Toronto almost doubled their run-production total in the first inning.
Junior Felix, who homered in his first big league at-bat against McCaskill on May 4, led off the inning by beating out a roller to third. Fernandez followed with a line-drive homer off the second-deck facade in right.
One out later, George Bell dropped a bloop double down the right-field line and scored on Fred McGriff's single to center. McCaskill struck out Ernie Whitt and then got out of a very shaky first when Claudell Washington made a nice running catch on the warning track of Rance Mulliniks' drive to right-center.
With one out in the second, Liriano lifted a high drive into the seats down the right-field line. And one out after that, Fernandez hit his second homer of the night, a high fly that hooked just inside the right-field foul pole to give Toronto a 5-0 advantage.
Kelly Gruber followed with a single up the middle that sent McCaskill in for an early shower.
Rookie Rich Monteleone was summoned and he held the Blue Jays to two hits over 5 1/3 innings. But Toronto wasn't done with their Angel ERA-bashing. Mulliniks' run-scoring single in the eighth produced the first run reliever Bob McClure had allowed since opening day, a span that included 17 appearances.
Blue Jay starter Jimmy Key (7-6) had less trouble keeping the ball in the park than McCaskill, but the Angels also got on the scoreboard via the home run when Lance Parrish sliced a drive two rows deep into the right-field seats. Jack Howell followed with a considerably better struck drive to dead center, but Felix retreated and snagged the ball near the top of the fence before crashing into the wall.
Wally Joyner extended his current hitting streak to a career-best 13 with a double off left fielder Bell's glove with one out in the ninth. And he eventually scored on Chili Davis' sacrifice fly, but it wasn't enough to keep the Angel fans from heading for exits.
It's summertime and the livin' ain't so easy for the Angels. They're still 11 games over .500, but some of those high hopes of late spring are starting to evaporate with the onset of summer.
After using 46 different lineups in the first 62 games, Manager Doug Rader has decided to settle on batting order that features Claudell Washington in the leadoff spot and Wally Joyner in the cleanup role. Tuesday night was the fifth game in a row the Angels have started with the same batting order. "Claudell has had a lot to do with it," Rader said, "and we spent a lot of time searching for a No. 4 hitter. Nothing really worked out, but Wally seems to deal well with hitting fourth. And I think it's in everyone's best interest to have as set a lineup as possible." Joyner has only one home run this season, but Rader doesn't see any problems. "You don't have to be the prototypical No. 4 hitter or hit 40 homers a year to be productive in that position," he said.