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Angels are paying a costly price for inaction

While the American League West-leading Texas Rangers addressed pitching needs before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Angels did nothing and continue to slip further away from first place in the division.

August 16, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels rookie starter Tyler Chatwood didn't get out of the third inning against the first-place Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
Angels rookie starter Tyler Chatwood didn't get out of the third inning… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Three weeks ago, with the Texas Rangers clinging to a two-game lead in the American League West, General Manager Jon Daniels addressed his team's most glaring need by trading for relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.

The Angels' Tony Reagins, meanwhile, did nothing.

The message couldn't have been clearer.

The Rangers were going places while the Angels were standing pat.

The Rangers were rolling the dice while the Angels would play the cards they had been dealt.

The Rangers were all in while the Angels were all talk.

And so far the gamble has paid off for Texas while the hand the Angels were left holding has proven to be short a few aces.

Take the first two games of the teams' four-game series at Angel Stadium. The Rangers started two pitchers in Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland who had a combined 21 victories this season. The Angels started two rookies in Garrett Richards and Tyler Chatwood who had a combined 23 starts.

The two Rangers gave up seven runs in two victories, the second coming Tuesday when Holland came within an out of his fifth complete game in a 7-3 victory.

The two Angels gave up six runs in 22/3 innings, the first time two Angels pitchers combined for less than three innings in consecutive starts in more than a decade.

So guess which team woke up Wednesday leading the division by a season-high six games?

There's still time for the Reagins and the Angels to make a move, although both appear unlikely.

The Angels general manager came up empty at the trade deadline because nobody wanted the players he offered and he wasn't offering the players (Richards, Mike Trout) everybody wanted.

That isn't going to change now because, after dealing four top pitching prospects in July 2010, the Angels' cupboards are bare. And on the field the team has gone backward the last three weeks, losing 10 of 17 games.

Manager Mike Scioscia continues to say he can win with this team, but it's becoming harder and harder to understand how.

Since the All-Star break, the Angels have been the worst-hitting team in the majors. They don't have a player batting better than .291, only one has more than 17 home runs and no one has driven more than 65 runs.

They're averaging less than four runs per game this season, their bullpen is second in the league with 21 losses and their closer leads the majors with eight blown saves.

Owner Arte Moreno, who promised Angels fans a winner, stepped up big last winter, increasing the payroll to a franchise-record $142 million, the fourth-largest in baseball and nearly $50 million more than the Rangers are spending.

But it hasn't been money well-spent since his three best-paid position players — Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu — started Tuesday hitting .239 combined. And even that kind of largess has been no help on the trade front since teams want to deal for the kind of prospects the Angels no longer have.

The race is far from over, of course. With Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver starting the final two games with Texas, the Angels can still hold serve and gain a split of the series.

And with only 15 of their final 39 games against teams that began Tuesday with a winning record, the schedule favors the Angels as well.

But they'll have to get moving quickly since they gave Daniels and the Rangers a three-week head start.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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