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Angels lose to lowly Orioles again, 9-7

Rally is cut short in the ninth inning when Torii Hunter makes the first out at third base.

August 04, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Baltimore — They've altered their infield, shuffled their starting rotation and juggled their outfield.

Maybe it's time the Angels shifted their focus to 2011.

Different names and configurations have failed to halt a slide in which the Angels have lost 10 of their last 13 games, a 9-7 defeat Wednesday at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles dropping them into third place in the American League West.

The weight of their mounting division deficit may have resulted in a rally-killing decision by Torii Hunter in the ninth inning after he pulled the Angels to within two runs with his fourth hit, an RBI double to right-center field.

With nobody out and Howie Kendrick representing the potential tying run at the plate, Hunter tried to steal third base off Orioles closer Alfredo Simon. But Hunter was thrown out, rendering a subsequent two-out single by Juan Rivera meaningless.

"They teach you down in Little League, don't make the first out at third," said a visibly distraught Hunter, who received reassuring pats on the back from teammates and coaches in the clubhouse. "It might have been the dumbest thing I've done in years. Stupid."

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said the attempted steal would have made sense if Hunter represented the tying run, but "there was no real advantage to that play."

The late drama seemed unlikely after Baltimore got to Ervin Santana for 12 hits and a career-high-tying nine runs in 3 2/3 innings, knocking him out of the game with a two-out, five-run rally in the fourth inning that gave the Orioles a 9-1 lead.

Then the Angels put together a five-run seventh inning that featured a season-high seven hits in an inning, including a two-run double from Maicer Izturis and run-scoring doubles from Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu. There was a chance for more when pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, but he grounded out to end the inning.

Even with Baltimore scoring three second-inning runs off Santana (10-8), the Angels had plenty of chances to pressure Orioles starter Brian Matusz (4-11). But they went one for seven with runners in scoring position in the first four innings, the hit an infield single from Hunter that only advanced Izturis from second to third.

Santana retired the first two batters in the fourth. The next six batters reached base, with Ty Wigginton's two-run single and Luke Scott's two-run homer serving as the biggest blows.

"When you don't have a first-pitch strike, you have big troubles," said Santana, who struggled with his fastball command. "I'm just going to leave this in this ballpark and get to the next outing."

The Angels have been outscored, 15-10, in losing the first two games of a series against the dreadful Orioles, who began Wednesday 40 games under .500. The Angels (54-55) joined their counterparts on the wrong side of the break-even mark, falling below .500 at this point of a season for the first time since 2003.

Those seven games left against AL West-leading Texas over the next two months may not mean much unless the Angels can start winning. Their latest defeat left them 8½ games behind the Rangers and one game behind second-place Oakland.

For those who maintain there's still plenty of time left, well, not really.

The Angels have overcome a bigger deficit to make the playoffs, having been 10½ games out of first place in the division in 2002 before going on to win the wild card and the World Series. But that deficit came in April, not August.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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