Reporting from Chicago — It was supposed to be an inning of work for Brian Fuentes, who hadn't pitched in a week when he entered Sunday's game in the eighth inning with the Angels trailing, 9-1. Instead, the Angels' closer got worked over.
The Chicago Cubs' Xavier Nady doubled off the left-field wall, a ball that was hit so hard it probably came back with ivy stains, to open the inning. Geovany Soto struck out, and Alfonso Soriano flied to center.
But Starlin Castro walked, Ryan Theriot hit a run-scoring double to left, Tyler Colvin hit a two-run single to right, and Marlon Byrd doubled to left-center, knocking Fuentes out of the game.
Fuentes, who hadn't given up a run while converting save opportunities in his previous three outings, was charged with three runs in a 12-1 loss and left with a 6.23 earned-run average.
Not that Manager Mike Scioscia, who said Fuentes will remain his closer, seemed all that concerned.
"I don't think you're going to look at a reliever's ERA and grade him out on that," Scioscia said. "Especially in a short relief role, a couple bad outings, and it's going to take a long time to get that ERA where it needs to be.
"But in Brian's role, you look at saves and opportunities and how many times he holds leads, the things that are important to teams winning games. The ball is coming out of Brian's hand well. He just missed some spots, and those guys squared up some balls."
Erick Aybar, sidelined since last Tuesday because of cartilage damage in his left knee, did some light running and took some ground balls hit right at him Saturday for the first time since suffering his injury.
The shortstop and leadoff batter, who relies heavily on his speed and quickness on both offense and defense, wore a knee brace for his drills, "but I don't want to play with it," he said. "It's too heavy."
The swelling in the knee has subsided, and Aybar said there is only "a little" pain. With an off day Monday, the Angels will decide Tuesday whether to place him on the disabled list.
"We should know by Tuesday what direction he's going," Scioscia said. "If he's at a heightened risk, we're not going to play him, but when a player is ready to play, you want him back in the lineup so he can work out those rough edges."
Two blind mice
The umpiring crew pulled off a rare double play in the sixth inning Sunday, blowing calls at second and first on the same play.
With the Angels' Howie Kendrick on first and no outs, Kevin Frandsen hit a potential double-play grounder to shortstop. Castro's high throw to second forced Theriot to leap for the ball, and the second baseman was clearly off the bag when he made the catch.
But second base umpire Ed Hickox ruled Kendrick out. Theriot's relay throw to first base beat Frandsen by a full step, but first base umpire Gary Cederstrom called Frandsen safe.
Only Cubs Manager Lou Piniella came out to argue, though. Had Scioscia gone to second to argue Hickox's call, it would have produced one of the more humorous scenes of the season.
Buy Angels tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.