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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Angels' struggles continue in 6-0 loss to Athletics

Bartolo Colon baffles the Angels and Yoenis Cespedes hits a three-run home run.

April 18, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

Was the entire month of March, when Albert Pujols was crushing balls all over the Cactus League, the Angels were scoring runs in bushels and the starting pitchers were dominating, just a desert mirage?

Twelve games into the season, which continued to spiral with Wednesday night's 6-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics, the Angels are 4-8, six games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West and looking every bit as listless as they did for much of 2010 and 2011.

They began 2012 with World Series aspirations and a $151-million payroll filled with All-Stars, but their performance hasn't come close to matching expectations.

"I've very disappointed in the way we're playing," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "I know it's only 12 games, but we can't keep saying that, because there's a way to lose, and we're not losing the right way. If you're going to lose, you've got to lose battling."

That was the message from Manager Mike Scioscia, who said he "bounced a couple of things" off players after the game, his code phrase for a team meeting.

"We need to grind," Scioscia said. "This is a team full of talented guys who grind it out, but we're a little spotty right now. As a unit, we're not finding that offensive chemistry, the chemistry on the mound. I like this club, but we need to start charting a new direction."

They started Wednesday night in a hole when Ervin Santana, who had a 13-3 record and 2.00 earned-run average against the A's, gave up a three-run home run to Yoenis Cespedes in the first inning.

Jonny Gomes hit a solo shot in the sixth inning, and the Angels were completely baffled by former Angel Bartolo Colon, who gave up four hits in eight innings and allowed one runner to reach third base.

The Angels thought the addition of Pujols, the return of Kendrys Morales and complementary pieces such as Howie Kendrick, Hunter and Vernon Wells would give them a deep and powerful lineup, maybe even as potent as the Rangers, but they've been shut out twice and held to three runs or less five times.

Pujols, who averaged a home run every 14.3 at-bats in 11 years in St. Louis, is hitting .265 with four runs batted in and has not homered in 49 at-bats, his longest homerless streak to start a season and the longest stretch since a 27-game drought (107 at-bats) from April 24 to May 22, 2011. The first baseman led the AL with seven homers and an .850 slugging percentage in spring training.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that Pujols, a feared slugger who led the National League in intentional walks in five of six seasons from 2005 to 2010 and is known for his plate discipline, has not drawn a walk in the last nine games, a strong indication teams are not pitching around him.

"I don't think the focus should all be on Albert," Scioscia said. "There are going to be nights he doesn't go three for four with two bombs. We have a lineup of guys capable of pressuring opponents every inning, and right now, we're not seeing that."

Colon didn't seem intimidated by Pujols or any Angel. In fact, during one remarkable stretch from the fifth through eighth innings, the 38-year-old right-hander threw 38 consecutive strikes to 12 batters, giving up two hits during the span.

Colon struck out five, walked none, and of his 108 pitches, 82 were strikes.

"His ball was moving like crazy, we couldn't get good wood on it," Hunter said. "He was good. I tip my cap to him … but I can't be doing that every night."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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