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Weak offense puts Angels in infrequently traveled territory

Not since the 1988 World Series-winning Dodgers has a team scored fewer than four runs per game and qualified for the playoffs. The Angels average 3.85 runs.

August 13, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • With the struggles of veterans like Torii Hunter in the middle of the batting order, the Angels are having trouble scoring runs this season.
With the struggles of veterans like Torii Hunter in the middle of the batting… (Darren Calabrese / Associated…)

Reporting from Toronto — As the Dodgers prepared for Game 4 of the 1988 World Series, broadcaster Bob Costas said they might have the weakest lineup in Series history. Manager Tom Lasorda told his players and retold the media, an anecdote immortalized by the Dodgers' victory.

Kirk Gibson was injured but, truth be told, the Dodgers' offense was not very good that year, even with Gibson winning the National League most valuable player award. The Dodgers scored 3.88 runs per game in the regular season.

That, curiously enough, brings us to the Angels. No team since the 1988 Dodgers has scored fewer than four runs per game and qualified for the playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Angels are scoring 3.85 runs per game, even as they remain within striking distance of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.

"This offensive situation isn't masked by our win-loss record," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know eventually we have to start scoring runs.

"Realistically, if our offense tails off much more — or if at least we can maintain what we have and hopefully improve — it's going to be very difficult. I don't care how good your pitching is."

The Dodgers rode Orel Hershiser to glory in 1988, although Angels ace Jered Weaver has a better earned-run average this season than Hershiser did that season.

The Angels don't need that much more offense. They're 51-10 when they score at least four runs. They have won seven games with four or fewer hits; no other team has won more than four.

"I haven't kept track of that," Scioscia said. "I just know our offense needs to get better."

Scioscia dismissed the notion that the Angels could get to October as the Dodgers did half a century ago, with 1-0 and 2-1 victories in the era of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

"This isn't the National League during the '60s," Scioscia said. "When you get offenses as deep as the Yankees, Boston, Texas and Detroit, you're in the big boys' league. You can't expect to hold those offenses down on a continual basis. At some point, you have to score."

Scioscia, of course, played for the 1988 Dodgers. So did Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who batted third for the Dodgers in the World Series, in place of the injured Gibson.

Hatcher said the Angels have to play small ball to win.

"We're not going to be a team that's going to hit the three-run home run," Hatcher said. "We've got to scrap and manufacture runs. We're not that dangerous all the way through the lineup."

Shirt trick?

Toronto is a hotbed of hockey, where fans throw hats onto the ice when a player scores three goals in a game. When the Blue Jays' Adam Lind hit a grand slam Saturday, Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos had to pick up what a few Jays fans threw onto the field.

"Yellow T-shirts," Bourjos said. "They were yelling at me to put one on."

Short hops

Angels catcher Jeff Mathis suffered a bruised left hand when he was hit by a pitch in the third inning. He stayed in the game, and postgame X-rays did not show any fracture. … In two appearances since the Angels demoted him to the bullpen, Joel Pineiro has given up six runs in five innings. … Rookie first baseman Mark Trumbo, who leads the team in home runs and runs batted in, hit in the cleanup spot for the first time.

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