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Angels Well Past Breaking Point

Post-All-Star free fall continues with 9-3 loss to Red Sox, who complete series sweep and hand Anaheim its 17th loss in 21 games.

August 08, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The Angels stumbled to the finish line in 2001, losing 19 of their final 21 games. Ugly, yes, but there was small consolation in the knowledge that the schedule was about to run out. Winter would put the Angels out of their misery.

This is just as ugly, and the schedule does not run out for another seven weeks. They have lost 17 of their 21 games since the All-Star break, with the Boston Red Sox torching Ramon Ortiz in a 9-3 victory Thursday that completed a three-game sweep and extended the Angels' latest losing streak to five.

"I don't think we're in the same frame of mind as we were then," said pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who endured the crash of 2001. "At the end of that season, we were just hoping for the end and going through the motions. I don't get that feeling now. We're still busting our butts, trying to do whatever we can to get our season turned around."

The Angels have played seven series since the break, winning none. They have been swept three times -- by the Red Sox and New York Yankees, both pennant contenders, and by the Baltimore Orioles, another sub-.500 outfit.

"Even if you're not in a playoff race, there's pride," outfielder Eric Owens said. "You don't want to get your brains beat in every day.

"If we can get some wins, it can still be a positive year; .500 can still be a positive for us."

That was hardly the expected aspiration for the World Series champions, but it's all they have left. In the three weeks since the All-Star break, the Angels have fallen from a season-best six games over .500 to a season-worst seven games under .500.

"You don't need to get hit with a brick in the head to know we've been struggling," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

The Angels' lack of depth has been painfully exposed. They finished Thursday's game with four intended regulars out of the lineup because of injury -- designated hitter Brad Fullmer, third baseman Troy Glaus, center fielder Darin Erstad and catcher Bengie Molina.

That puts the burden for any success upon the starting pitchers, a burden they have failed to meet with any consistency this season.

Ortiz, the closest thing the Angels have to a reliable starter, suddenly has reverted to his homer-happy form of a year ago. For the first time this season, he gave up three home runs, two to David Ortiz and one to Nomar Garciaparra, who homered in each game of the series.

Ramon Ortiz did all this within a span of 10 batters, with David Ortiz leading off the second and third innings with home runs. The Red Sox batted around in the second, scoring six runs.

"This team hit everything -- fastball, slider, curve," Ramon Ortiz said. "This team is hot right now. I throw good pitches, I throw bad pitches, they hit everything."

The Angels removed Ortiz after the third inning, the second time in three starts he has failed to reach the fourth. In his last 12 1/3 innings, he has given up 13 runs, including five home runs.

Closer Troy Percival pitched the eighth inning, simply for the work. He had not pitched this month. The Angels last presented him with a save situation 12 days ago.

He gave up a home run too, to Jason Varitek. Percival has been scored upon in three consecutive outings, after being scored upon in two of his previous 28.

Molina homered for the Angels. So did Tim Salmon, who had three hits.

Tonight, the Angels play the first of 30 consecutive games against American League Central teams. The Angels are 10-1 against the AL Central. At the All-Star break, they circled this stretch of games as the one that would make or break their season.

Too late. It's already broken. The Angels have a .333 winning percentage against the American League East. So do the Detroit Tigers, the worst team in the major leagues.

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