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Angels are powerless against Rays' David Price

Left-hander throws a five-hitter in a 5-0 victory in which Tampa Bay tags Ervin Santana (0-4) for a career-high four home runs.

April 24, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There was no marine layer in Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, no heavy air to turn would-be home runs into warning-track fly balls.

Left-hander David Price didn't need it; he threw his second career shutout, a 119-pitch, five-hit gem with six strikeouts to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-0 victory over the Angels.

Right-hander Ervin Santana could have used it, though a thick fog and gale-force winds blowing in from right field may not have kept two Rays bombs in the park.

Santana gave up a career-high four home runs, solo shots to Desmond Jennings, Luke Scott, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena, and the Angels, a team picked by many to reach the World Series, fell to 6-11, 71/2 games behind Texas in the American League West.

Santana (0-4) has been tagged for a major league-high 10 homers and became the first Angels pitcher since Don Sutton in 1986 to give up multiple homers in his first four starts.

"I just have to locate my fastball better," Santana said. "I have to keep believing in myself. One of these days, it's going to come."

Every hitter in the Angels clubhouse is thinking the same thing. The Angels, with the likes of Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales, were supposed to have one of their most potent lineups ever, but they have one homer in 53 innings in their last six games and an AL-low 11 homers this season.

The Angels rank 10th in the league in scoring, 11th in on-base percentage (.304) and 12th in slugging percentage (.376). They were shut out for the third time.

Pujols was hitless in four at-bats Tuesday, his average dropping to .232, and he is hitless in four straight starts for the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2010.

The slugger who averaged a homer every 14.3 at-bats in 11 seasons in St. Louis has gone 17 games and 69 at-bats without a homer, his longest homerless drought to start a season and his longest since going 27 games and 105 at-bats without a homer April 24-May 22, 2011.

"It's a long season, we're only 17 games in, and we have to keep fighting," Pujols said. "I don't concentrate on individual numbers. I concentrate more on the team. We're a better club than we're showing. It seems like the entire lineup is struggling."

At the heart of the struggles might be the Angels' habit of expanding the strike zone.

According to, 34.0% of the team's swings through Sunday came on pitches outside the strike zone, the second-worst "O-swing" rating in baseball behind Philadelphia (34.1%).

Pujols, who began 2012 with a .420 career OBP, swung at pitches outside the strike zone 42.4% of the time, double his career O-swing rating of 21.7%.

"And he knows it," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "He's expanding the zone, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that it's early in the season, and he wants to do something to help the team. He has to back off, be more patient and selective. He might be trying to do too much."

On a 2-and-0 pitch with a runner on first in the fourth inning Tuesday, Torii Hunter swung at a pitch several inches off the plate and fouled it off. He took a strike before grounding out.

After Mark Trumbo's leadoff single in the fifth, Vernon Wells, first-pitch swinging at a ball outside the zone, grounded into a double play.

"When you struggle, you're usually swinging at bad pitches," Hunter said. "It's not that I'm missing strikes, I'm missing balls."

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