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Twins complete sweep of Angels

Minnesota left-hander Glen Perkins needs only 84 pitches to go eight innings, giving up just four hits.

April 20, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

MINNEAPOLIS — They are not robots. They come to the park with brave faces and stiff upper lips, they go about their jobs like professionals, but there is simply no getting around it.

Ten days after they were stunned by the death of 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart in a traffic crash, the Angels were still reeling from the effects of the tragedy, still trying to figure out how to play through their grief.

They were swept by Minnesota over the weekend, their 3-1 loss to the Twins in the Metrodome on Sunday completing a 1-5 trip and dropping the Angels to 4-8, the first time since 2002 they've had a losing record after 12 games.

And it's obvious to center fielder Torii Hunter that something isn't right.

"We're still human," Hunter said. "We try to be professionals, but we're still down. You can feel it in the clubhouse. There's no music playing. Guys are kind of in a quiet mood. You try to bring some life into the clubhouse, but it is what it is.

"A lot of these guys grew up with Nick. I'm not going to say that's 100% the reason why [we're struggling]. But you can tell it still affects this club."

It hasn't affected the performance of an injury-plagued rotation. Shane Loux gave the Angels seven strong innings Sunday, the longest outing of his career, giving up three runs and 10 hits, striking out two and walking none. Angels starters have combined for a 2.86 earned-run average.

But the bullpen has been awful, with an 0-5 record and 8.31 ERA. The offense has been stagnant and just lost cleanup batter Vladimir Guerrero, who has a chest muscle tear, to the disabled list.

The Angels are batting .250 as a team and .221 with runners in scoring position. Howie Kendrick (.213), Kendry Morales (.227), Mike Napoli (.231), Jeff Mathis (.235), Erick Aybar (.226) and Maicer Izturis (.143) are struggling.

The only two Angels doing much at the plate are Hunter, who is hitting .308 with four home runs and eight runs batted in, and Bobby Abreu, who is batting .362 with six RBIs.

On Sunday, the Angels managed four singles against left-hander Glen Perkins, who needed only 84 pitches to complete eight innings.

The Angels bunched two hits in the second inning -- singles by Abreu and Hunter -- and Morales' run-scoring groundout for their run.

"We're scuffling; we can't hide that," Hunter said. "We're a way better team than what we've been showing. . . . It's like, the at-bats are not us. It's kind of like we're daydreaming. We need to get up there and get after it, get more aggressive at the plate.

"We're not seeing the ball and swinging. I can't explain it. It's weird, and it's not us. . . . Hopefully, we can take [today] off, rest up mentally and physically, clear our minds a little bit and come back a new club. Go bowling or see a movie. Go see 'Batman.' Get your mind off baseball and take a deep breath."

Manager Mike Scioscia will have to take a hard look at the top of his order, and not just because the first three batters combined to go 0 for 12 on Sunday.

Chone Figgins, despite his subpar average, has been getting on base; he's among the league leaders with 12 walks. But Kendrick hasn't been setting the table in the two spot, and Abreu's move from third to cleanup to replace Guerrero has produced a void.

Izturis and Robb Quinlan, who hit third against the Twins, combined to go 0 for 13 with an RBI and a run in the series.

"Eventually, you've got to find some chemistry that works," Scioscia said. "We're only 12 games in, and you want guys to be able to get their feet on the ground and start swinging like they can. But if we have to move some guys around to jump-start things, we'll consider it."

Hunter and Abreu have broken out the jumper cables too.

"Bobby and I are veterans -- I've been through a lot, I'm sure he's been through a lot," Hunter said. "We're trying to encourage guys, crack jokes, keep their spirits up. A 1-5 trip stinks. That's not us. But we'll get it together, trust me."


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