Darin Erstad is not a big fan of off-days, but after the Angels lost four of five games, getting shut out by Texas twice over the weekend and shelled by Seattle, 16-6, Wednesday, the Angel first baseman admitted Thursday's respite couldn't have come at a better time.
"We've been spinning our wheels, beating our heads against the wall trying to figure things out," said Erstad, who was moved to the leadoff spot in Manager Mike Scioscia's latest lineup shakeup Friday. "It was nice to take a step back, regroup, get a fresh start and lay it on the line for 10 days."
After an off-day to reflect on the Angels' recent struggles, Erstad is convinced the team has succumbed not so much to the pressure of a pennant race but to a combination of mental and physical fatigue.
"We looked like a tired baseball team out there," said Erstad, who entered Friday night's game against the A's with a .197 September average (15 for 76) after hitting .367 in August. "We made mental mistakes on defense and didn't put together the at-bats we have in the past.
"I don't feel tension or pressure; we just hit a real bad lull and have had a tough time kicking it. It's not one or two guys, but the energy level we've had in the past just hasn't been there. A lot of guys are struggling, including myself. But on a positive note, as bad as we've played, we still have a shot."
Troy Glaus was moved from the sixth to the second spot Friday night, but this was familiar territory for him. Glaus often hit second against left-handers in 2000 and 2001, and Scioscia has slotted him there at times when he has struggled. Friday's move was made in hopes of finding a better table-setter for the middle of the order.
"Just because I'm batting second doesn't mean I'm going to drag bunt or sacrifice bunt," said Glaus, who has a .369 on-base percentage. "That's not the kind of hitter I am. If [Erstad] leads off with a double, I'll try to get him to third, but it won't be with a sacrifice bunt."
Tickets for possible American League division series games at Angel Stadium will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. and will be available only through the Angels' website (www.angelsbaseball.com) and Ticketmaster phone lines (714-663-9000). There will be no tickets on sale at Angel Stadium or any Ticketmaster ticket center.
Tickets for a possible three games range in price from $14 for left-field pavilion seats to $50 for club loge seats and will be limited to four tickets per person per order.
Dallas McPherson, who hit a combined .317 with 40 home runs and 126 runs batted in at double-A Arkansas and triple-A Salt Lake, was named the Angels' minor league player of the year.
Right-hander Steve Shell, who went 12-7 with a 3.59 earned-run average at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, was named pitcher of the year, and first baseman Casey Kotchman was named defensive player of the year.