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Rockies expose Angels

June 23, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

From seven straight wins to three straight losses, the Angels have gone from a team that seemed to be hitting its stride to one that has hit the skids.

With Monday night's 11-1 loss to the smoking-hot Colorado Rockies came some of the same questions that haunted the Angels during the first 2 1/2 months of this uneven season.

Do they have enough starting pitching to win the American League West? Do they have enough offense to win the division and compete with AL East powers Boston and New York?

The situation looked grim on both fronts Monday night, as Matt Palmer suffered his first loss of the year on the same day Ervin Santana went on the disabled list, and the Angels managed only three hits against starter Aaron Cook and two relievers.

"We didn't play well in about every area," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's frustrating when you can't get anything going offensively."

Palmer, the 30-year-old rookie who won his first six decisions, was pounded for six runs and seven hits -- none of them cheap -- in 4 2/3 innings, walking five and striking out five.

The right-hander gave up three runs in the second inning, which included Ian Stewart's run-scoring single and Seth Smith's two-run single, and three in the fifth on Brad Hawpe's three-run home run to center field.

Palmer's problem, as Scioscia pointed out during a stern second-inning mound visit, was that he was behind in the count to far too many hitters.

"I wasn't out there talking mechanics," Scioscia said. "I was trying to reinforce that his game is movement of his fastball and changing speeds, and that's not going to play in 2-0 and 3-1 counts. Those guys are going to look for pitches up that they can hit."

The Rockies added two runs in the sixth against Rich Thompson, who gave up a solo home run to Smith, one against Rafael Rodriguez in the seventh and two against Jason Bulger in the ninth.

The four Angels pitchers combined for six wild pitches, tying a club record set twice, the last time on April 13, 1991, at Minnesota.

"Mike battled, but it was a tough night for him," Scioscia said of catcher Mike Napoli. "Some balls he blocked well and they got good reads and jumps; some he didn't get in front of."

All the Angels mustered against Cook (7-3) was a Kendry Morales home run in the fourth. Cook gave up three hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking two, for his 59th win for Colorado, moving him into first on the Rockies' all-time win list.

Certainly, the quality of the opponent has had something to do with the Angels' downturn. The team with the best record in baseball, the Dodgers, stopped their winning streak with two weekend victories, and the hottest team in baseball extended their misery Monday night.

The Rockies have won 17 of 18 games since June 4, and they are 19-5 since Jim Tracy, the former Dodgers manager, took over for the fired Clint Hurdle on May 29.

"We're a more aggressive team," Tracy said. "We were way too passive on offense, striking out too much and taking too many called third strikes. We're not expanding the strike zone, but when the ball is in the hitting area to be swung at, we're firing.

"Our starting pitching is going deeper into games, which is helping the bullpen set up better, and when you hit the ball to anyone on the field, there's a real good chance it's going to be caught."

Colorado had 13 hits, five for extra bases, and played flawless defense.

"The way they played tonight, we certainly saw firsthand how they've been playing the last few weeks," Scioscia said.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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