The way things are going, the Oakland Athletics might be best served not to go with a pitcher named Zito, Mulder or Hudson this weekend against the Angels.
Anyone with substandard credentials could help the A's move closer to a third consecutive American League West title if the Angel hitters continue to sputter as they have recently against an assortment of pedestrian pitchers.
Rookie Chris Young became the latest unheralded starter to stifle the Angels, pitching six-plus scoreless innings Sunday in the Texas Rangers' 1-0 victory in front of 40,099 at Angel Stadium.
Young and three relievers held the Angels to six singles, intensifying concern about a batting order that has been shut out in back-to-back games. Angel hitters have been outclassed by two rookies, an emergency starter and a 15-game loser in dropping four of their last six games, three by shutout.
"It's obvious it's not a good time for your bats to go silent," said Angel Manager Mike Scioscia, who acknowledged he was considering a shake-up of a lineup that would not have put a runner in scoring position Sunday if Texas right fielder Brian Jordan had not made an error on David Eckstein's first-inning single.
Young (2-2) retired the next three Angels, stranding Eckstein, and wasn't threatened again during a performance in which he gave up five hits, struck out four and walked none.
Jarrod Washburn turned in another superlative effort by an Angel starter in defeat, yielding an unearned run in eight innings before being saddled with a loss that dropped the Angels three games behind the A's.
The Angels' paltry stretch of hitting, in which they stranded all four runners they put in scoring position the last two games, prompted Scioscia to address the team in a 10-minute postgame meeting. The message: Let's get back to the aggressive approach that got us here.
"Basically, we're a better team than this and we need to pick it up and play our style of baseball," Washburn said of Scioscia's address. "If we're going to lose, at least lose playing our style."
Said Scioscia: "It's not a time mentally to let any air out and give in to any of this.... You've got to find a way to perform and produce."
Jose Guillen and Bengie Molina had two singles apiece, but the Angels were unable to string together consecutive hits, running their scoreless streak to 18 innings.
"When you have your big guys in the middle of the lineup not hitting, that's going to happen," Guillen said. "Right now we just can't find a way to score some runs."
The Angel defense didn't help matters. General Manager Bill Stoneman could be excused for fumbling Molina's third-inning foul ball that reached his luxury box, but right fielder Vladimir Guerrero probably should have caught Hank Blalock's fourth-inning fly ball that caromed off his glove.
"The ball looked like it had a lot of action on it, and I think the wind pushed it a little bit," Scioscia said. "It's a ball Vlad will catch nine times out of 10."
Blalock went to second on the error and took third on Michael Young's groundout before scoring on Kevin Mench's single to left, which elicited a collective groan from a crowd that realized the importance of minimizing mistakes against such a potent lineup.
"When you're not playing at a high level," Scioscia said, "every mistake is going to be an issue."
Washburn (11-8) escaped the ensuing two-on, one-out jam, and stranded Chad Allen at third in the seventh to keep his teammates within striking distance.
Guillen led off the bottom of the seventh with a single but was thrown out going to second on Jeff DaVanon's sacrifice bunt attempt. Eckstein drew a two-out walk in the eighth before Darin Erstad struck out to end the inning, and DaVanon struck out with pinch-runner Alfredo Amezaga on first base in the ninth.
The Angels, who have the highest batting average in the AL, have been shut out 10 times this season, including four times in their last 12 games.
"These ones are tougher to deal with than when you get your butt kicked," said Washburn, who gave up six hits and two walks, and struck out three. "It feels like one slipped away."