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Angels Can't Take Flight

After traveling home on a red-eye and landing at dawn, their hitters look decidedly earthbound in a 3-1 loss to the A's, who stretch lead to 11/2 games.

August 01, 2006|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

A month to remember ended with a day to forget for the Angels.

They landed at dawn after a cross-country flight following a night game in Boston, were disappointed at midday by their failure to obtain the Washington Nationals' Alfonso Soriano before the trading deadline, and then were frustrated in the evening by the Oakland Athletics, who beat them, 3-1, at Angel Stadium.

But Angels Manager Mike Scioscia wasn't about to let the previous 24 hours dim his optimism after the club went 19-7 in July to recover from a seven-game deficit in the American League West.

The Angels could have moved into first place had they won Monday night, having begun play just half a game behind the A's.

But Oakland extended its lead behind right-hander Dan Haren (8-9), and home runs from Milton Bradley and Jay Payton, whose two-run shot in the seventh inning proved to be the game-winner.

Haren pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, striking out five and walking none.

Both home runs were surrendered by Angels starter Ervin Santana (11-5), who has had to maintain his focus with trade rumors swirling around him the last few days. His was the name that surfaced the most often among those on the Angels' big league roster.

He kept shrugging off such talk and did it again Monday after being saddled with the loss.

"I don't care," he insisted. "Whatever happens, happens."

And the fact that nothing happened to take him out of Anaheim?

Another shrug.

He wasn't so mellow about the home-run balls, however.

"I made my mistakes," he said. "I am frustrated because I made two bad pitches."

Those two pitches negated a grand finale to the month of July for the Angels' Juan Rivera.

Much had been made of the Angels' pursuit of a big bat in the closing days before Monday's trade deadline.

But while all of the attention had been focused on Soriano and the Baltimore Orioles' Miguel Tejada, Rivera's bat, already in the Angels' lineup, has been growing bigger and bigger through the month.

He opened the scoring Monday night with a solo home run over the wall in left-center field in the fourth inning.

It was Rivera's 17th home run of the season and his 11th in July, tying Don Baylor's club mark for the month, set in 1979.

Rivera, who is in his second season with the Angels after previous stops in New York with the Yankees and in Montreal, wound up with a .364 average for the month and 25 RBIs in 25 games.

Bradley tied the score by hitting his seventh home run in the sixth inning.

Bradley, whose three-run walk-off home run won Oakland's game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, wouldn't be Bradley if he didn't put his own bizarre touch on the game. And sure enough, after smashing a 2-0 pitch from Santana, Bradley broke into a home-run trot that turned into a jog, then a full-speed sprint and finally back to a jog. He accelerated just before rounding third, then hit the brakes as he neared home plate.

There were no such theatrics from Payton when he pushed Oakland into the lead in the seventh, hitting a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left-centerfield to drive in Eric Chavez, who had singled.

It was Haren who figured to have trouble keeping the ball in the park. He was 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA over his previous eight starts, giving up seven home runs in that span.

And he was facing an Angels club that had scored 39 runs and collected 61 hits over its previous four games.

But that was July.

It's a new month, and thankfully for the Angels, a new day.

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