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Third Inning Is Not the Charm for Angels

Washburn gives up five runs in the inning, and his teammates can't quite catch Blue Jays, losing 5-4.

September 10, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

There is no sense of panic in their clubhouse, the Angels say, but there is definitely some tension in the batter's box, a feeling so palpable that Manager Mike Scioscia noticed it during Thursday night's frustrating 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 37,514 in Angel Stadium.

It was the second consecutive one-run loss to a dismal Toronto team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, and it dropped the Angels two games behind idle Oakland in the American League West.

The Angels remain five games behind Boston in the wild-card race, but they had to be kicking themselves for not gaining more ground this week. They had their top three pitchers -- Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jarrod Washburn -- going against a struggling Blue Jay team and won only one of three games.

The Angels' wild-card hopes seem to be slipping away. Though there is still plenty of time to catch the A's -- the Angels have 23 games left, including six against Oakland -- there are indications that the Angels are beginning to press, never a good sign in a September stretch run.

"If anything, a couple of guys are squeezing the bats too tight, trying to do too much," Scioscia said. "We need to get back to our game. It's the nature of the guys in that room to try harder, but that's not what we need. We need to relax, stay focused, play our game."

The Angels managed two singles in Wednesday night's 1-0 loss and had seven hits Thursday, as they tried to climb out of the 5-0, third-inning hole Washburn had put them in.

Instead of building rallies with hits and aggressive baserunning, the Angels seem to be relying too much on the home run. They put the leadoff man on base in only two of nine innings Thursday night.

Washburn (11-6) allowed one hit in the first two innings but fell apart in the third, an inning that began with singles by Chris Gomez and Reed Johnson. A wild pitch advanced the runners, and Orlando Hudson walked to load the bases.

Vernon Wells lined an 0-and-2 pitch off the left-field wall for a two-run double, Hudson scored on another wild pitch, and Carlos Delgado blasted a 2-and-0 pitch for a two-run home run, his 27th homer of the season, for a 5-0 lead.

"I had great stuff tonight, and for a stretch of five batters, I was terrible," Washburn said. "I would love to have that inning back. The bottom line is I stunk for five batters, and it cost us the game."

Washburn recovered to retire the next nine batters and added a scoreless sixth to give the Angels a chance to come back, but the Angels came up short.

Toronto left-hander Ted Lilly, following the blueprint that teammate Justin Miller used to shut out the Angels Wednesday -- kill them softly with changeups and slow curves -- blanked the Angels over the first three innings with an assist from right fielder Alexis Rios, who gunned down Jose Guillen at the plate to end the second.

The Angels finally broke through against Lilly in the fourth, when Vladimir Guerrero crushed Lilly's first pitch over the left-field wall for his 29th home run of the season.

Adam Kennedy's two-out home run to right in the fifth, his 10th of the season, pulled the Angels within 5-2, and the Angels rallied for two more runs in the seventh.

"Any time you're not winning, an opportunity is lost, but there's no sense that it's over," Washburn said.

"There's 23 games left, and we play Oakland six times. If we play better than we did the last two days, everything will be fine."

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