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Angels need a spike in punch

Hitting woes continue in 9-0 loss to Minnesota, their seventh defeat in a nine-game stretch during which they've scored only 28 runs.

August 23, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Friday afternoon that the prognosis for his offense was much better than it was in May, when injuries and ineptitude conspired to sap the team of its usual punch.

By the end of the Angels' 9-0 loss to Minnesota at Angel Stadium a few hours later -- their seventh defeat in nine games -- it seemed as if a second opinion was in order.

And Scioscia willingly obliged during a closed-door meeting with his players after the game.

"The last eight, nine, 10 games, this team is playing probably the worst baseball we have all year long," said Scioscia, who also singled out his team's pitching and defense and noted that certain unspecified distractions were affecting players.

"Some of these guys are putting a little pressure on themselves. We need to play baseball and concentrate on achieving and not worry about the down side," he said.

Even with a relatively intact lineup missing only injured shortstop Maicer Izturis among the starters, the Angels' hitters have pretty much disappeared in the last nine games. The team has averaged 3.1 runs over that span after averaging 6.6 over the previous 23 games.

"Everyone's wanting to get that big hit or get that inning ignited and putting pressure on themselves," catcher Jeff Mathis said. "We just need to relax and everything will work out."

Pitcher Joe Saunders said the gist of Scioscia's address was to "stay hungry and not be complacent, and play the way we're capable of day in and day out. . . .

"We might be lacking that edge a little," Saunders said. "I don't think it's the fact that we're 15 games up [in the American League West standings]. It's that we're tired and kind of going through the motions."

Saunders seemed to lack his usual edge on the mound Friday, giving up nine hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings. Former Camarillo High star Delmon Young homered and drove in three runs, and Denard Span hit a three-run homer off reliever Shane Loux to complete a four-RBI evening for the Twins, who moved into first place in the AL Central, half a game ahead of the Chicago White Sox.

The Angels' offense went meekly against Twins starter Glen Perkins and reliever Dennys Reyes, collecting six hits and putting three runners in scoring position. Perkins pitched eight scoreless innings before Reyes yielded a harmless single in the ninth.

"Some guys are gripping the bat too tightly and squeezing the sawdust out of it," Scioscia said.

Minnesota scored with alarming regularity against Saunders (14-6), who has not won in four starts this month and no longer appears a contender to win 20 games.

Young crushed a two-run homer in the fourth inning, Span hit a run-scoring single in the fifth and the Twins scored five runs off Saunders and Loux in the sixth, the big blow coming on Span's homer to right-center.

The Angels' slide hasn't cost them any ground in the standings; their advantage still stands at 15 games over Texas, the same as it was nine games ago.

"We're not looking at the lead and thinking we can take a little break," Mathis said. "We're going through a little funk and it's something we're trying to work our way out of."

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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