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Angels finish giving Royals a morale boost

They lose, 1-0, and are swept by lowly Kansas City as Weaver's strong effort falls by wayside.

June 28, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The Angels will have to dig a lot deeper to reach their low point of the season -- that came during a six-game road losing streak in April during which they scored a total of six runs against Cleveland, Boston and Oakland.

But they came down with a case of subterranean homesick blues this week, getting swept in a three-game series by the lowly Kansas City Royals in Angel Stadium, the capper a teeth-gnashing 1-0 loss Wednesday.

The Angels, who were averaging 6.6 runs and had a 16-5 record this month before the Royals came to town, scored eight runs and went hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position during the series.

They squandered several opportunities Wednesday and wasted a strong effort by Jered Weaver, who shook off the effects of a bruised shoulder and a sore throat to throw seven innings, giving up one run and four hits and striking out six.

"Obviously, we didn't expect to get swept by a team like this the way we've been playing, but they pitched well, and we couldn't get anything going," Weaver said. "I'm sure this is going to hit us hard."

Not Shea Hillenbrand. The Angels' deposed designated hitter was told after the game he will be designated for assignment Friday, a move that will give the team 10 days to trade or release the disgruntled 31-year-old.

Hillenbrand, who is batting .254 with three home runs and 22 runs batted in, lost his starting job June 4 and has had only 26 at-bats since.

"I feel like I'm being pushed aside, put on a back-burner, and I don't like that at all," Hillenbrand said Tuesday. "If I'm not going to play here, give me enough respect to trade me or get rid of me."

Wednesday, the Angels did, informing Hillenbrand to save him a trip to Baltimore today. The Angels probably will swallow the bulk of what's left on Hillenbrand's $6.5-million contract.

With outfielder Reggie Willits suffering a right knee bruise when he ran into the wall to catch Billy Butler's seventh-inning drive Wednesday and center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. sidelined because of a mild hamstring strain, the Angels are expected to recall an outfielder, probably Nick Gorneault, from triple A on Friday.

"I have mixed emotions because I love this place," Hillenbrand said after packing his bags and hugging teammates. "There are a lot of great things happening with this organization right now, and unfortunately that has to come at my expense.

"But the good thing is, I'm at a point in my career where I need to play. I totally understand the situation. I thank [General Manager] Bill Stoneman for giving me the opportunity to play somewhere else, because I'm not at a point in my career where I'm a bench player."

Had Hillenbrand produced anything close to his 18-homer, 82-RBI average of the last five years, he would have been more useful to the Angels, whose AL West lead over Seattle was cut to five games.

Vladimir Guerrero bounced into an inning-ending double play with two on in the first inning, and Chone Figgins took off for third on a stolen base attempt too soon and was picked off by pitcher Jorge De La Rosa in the sixth. Figgins probably would have scored on Orlando Cabrera's ensuing single.

Then in the seventh, after leadoff singles by Robb Quinlan and Howie Kendrick, Manager Mike Scioscia let Kendry Morales hit away instead of bunt. Morales struck out. Pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman popped to shortstop, and Erick Aybar grounded out.

De La Rosa threw six shutout innings despite giving up 10 hits, and David Riske, Joakim Soria and Octavio Dotel combined for three hitless innings to give the Royals their first series sweep.

Kansas City scored in the third when Joey Gathright beat out a dribbler to first for a single, stole second, took third on Esteban German's fly to right and scored on Mark Teahen's bloop single to left.

"We got a little frustrated as the day went on," Scioscia said. "We couldn't get that one hit that could have made a difference."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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