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Angels lack Street savvy

They have no answer for Oakland's closer, who strikes out Quinlan on three pitches for the final out, and lose, 2-1. Escobar throws six trying innings.

April 09, 2007|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The Angels were down to their last out, down by one run, with no one on base. On the mound stood one of baseball's best closers, Huston Street.

Perhaps the Angels would call on a left-handed hitter. Nope, they didn't do that.

Perhaps the Angels would call on their power guy off the bench. Nope, they don't have one of those.

So Robb Quinlan waved at three off-speed pitches from Street, who didn't even bother wasting a pitch. Quinlan struck out for the final out of the Angels' 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday at Angel Stadium.

"You're not going to have the right guy for every situation," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

No one could blame the loss on Quinlan, and Scioscia certainly wasn't, not as Joe Blanton and four relievers combined on a six-hitter. The Angels were one for 11 with runners in scoring position over the first six innings, and the A's retired the last 11 batters in order.

Kelvim Escobar held the A's to two runs over six innings but not without a struggle.

In the fourth inning, after Mike Piazza and Eric Chavez led off with singles and Nick Swisher drove in Piazza with a double, Escobar escaped further damage with a ground ball, strikeout and foul pop. In the sixth, after another round of singles from Piazza and Chavez, Escobar induced a double play and got a strikeout.

The Angels scored their run in the sixth inning, on an infield single by Maicer Izturis. Quinlan ended that inning when he struck out as a pinch-hitter for Erick Aybar, against left-hander Alan Embree.

So fast forward to the ninth inning, with Street asked to preserve that 2-1 lead. Izturis struck out. Mike Napoli flied out.

Quinlan, a player whose excellence against left-handers won him a spot on the team, was due up against Street, a right-hander.

Scioscia opted not to use veteran Shea Hillenbrand, who hit 21 home runs last season. Hillenbrand has not played since Tuesday because of a strained groin; Scioscia said he could have batted Sunday if necessary.

Scioscia said he considered using rookie Reggie Willits, a switch-hitter more likely to get a walk or single, but he wanted a hit that would get the tying run into scoring position.

"I thought Quinlan had an opportunity to get an extra-base hit," Scioscia said. "If he did, he's where he needs to be."

Quinlan's slugging percentage over the last three seasons: .387 against right-handers, .561 against left-handers. He failed to put the ball in play.

When Hillenbrand returns, the Angels' bench will consist of Aybar, Quinlan, Willits, outfielder Tommy Murphy and catcher Jose Molina. That's three youngsters, two right-handed bats and no proven power threats.

Nick Gorneault is a power threat, if not proven, and veteran Curtis Pride has a little pop from the left side. The Angels sent them to the minor leagues, cutting them in favor of Murphy, who has yet to bat this season.

"Our team is deep, but you're not going to be able to match up to everything," Scioscia said. "We have situational hitting and speed off the bench.

"As far as somebody that's going to come in and drive the ball, Tommy Murphy has a little pop, but we don't have that experienced hitter. You're not going to get a perfect roster, but we have enough depth on our bench to do the things we need to do."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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