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Angels struggling with runners in scoring position

Producing hits in the clutch is an area of weakness for the team, which ranked 13th in the American League with 52 runs going into Thursday.

April 18, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna

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The Angels take a major league-worst 5.43 earned-run average into Friday night's game against the Detroit Tigers, but pitching is by no means the only problem for an underachieving club that has won only four of 14 games.

The offense has posted some decent numbers, hitting .268 (fourth in the American League) with a .326 on-base percentage (sixth) and .419 slugging percentage (third), but hasn't produced much in the clutch.

The Angels are batting a major league-low .155 (16 for 103) with runners in scoring position, the primary reason they ranked 13th in the AL with 52 runs entering Thursday.

"That's what it comes down to, getting hits with guys on base," said right fielder Josh Hamilton, who is two for 14 (.143) with runners in scoring position and is batting .200 with 18 strikeouts overall. "We're getting guys on. We haven't gotten them in."

Manager Mike Scioscia believes some players have a knack for hitting in the clutch, but not because they rise to the occasion. Rather, they maintain their normal approach and don't expand the strike zone by trying to do too much.

"The calmer you can be, the better, but if you let a good pitch go by it's probably the last one you're going to see," first baseman Mark Trumbo said. "Some pitchers take it to the next level, they have another gear they can go to with runners in scoring position.

"The quicker you understand what they're trying to do, the better adjustments you can make."

Trumbo is batting .310 with one homer, six doubles and seven runs batted in but has only two hits in 12 at-bats (.167) with runners in scoring position.

"No one philosophy or approach applies to everyone," Trumbo said. "I try not to be ultra-selective in those situations. If you get a pitch you can handle early in the count, you need to have a plan as to where you want to hit it."

Back in town

Torii Hunter will play his first game in Angel Stadium on Friday as right fielder for the Detroit Tigers, and the nine-time Gold Glove Award winner figures to get a warmer reception than Hamilton got when the former Rangers slugger returned to Texas in the first week of the season.

Hunter, who hit .286 with 105 home runs and 432 runs batted in during his five years in Anaheim, wanted to re-sign with the Angels, but the team made only a token $5-million offer in September and did not make a $13-million "qualifying offer" after the World Series.

Hunter, 37, signed a two-year, $26-million deal with Detroit and was batting .413 with an AL-leading 26 hits, one homer and nine RBIs entering Thursday.

"That's the business side of baseball," Hunter said. "It stinks big time because I love the fans, and hopefully they love me out there. But when you have to move on, you have to move on.

"I did that with the Twins, and the same thing happened with the Angels. I thought I'd retire with the Twins and then the Angels. I'd love to be loyal to one team and have one team loyal to me, but it just doesn't work out like that all the time."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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