Halos stay positive as injuries, losses pile up

'These guys are fighting,' Scioscia says after 4th straight loss

May 11th, 2016

ANAHEIM -- Kole Calhoun glanced at the calendar that adorns an entire wall of Angel Stadium's home clubhouse and managed to crack a half-smile on Tuesday night, moments after an 8-1 loss put his reeling Angels a season-worst six games below .500.

"We've got a lot of year left, man," Calhoun said. "We're in the second week of May, so, we have a lot of 'ball left ahead of us."

That may be so, but the Angels -- with five critical pitchers nursing injuries and an offense that can't seem to find its way -- appear to be nearing a breaking point.

Their lopsided defeat to the Cardinals was their fourth in a row and their eighth in the last 10 games. They had their best healthy pitcher on the mound and faced a winless Cardinals' starter, and they still managed to get beat handily.

Hector Santiago exited after only 13 outs and 83 pitches, throwing his fastball about four ticks slower than he was earlier this season. And Mike Leake, who entered with a 6.03 ERA over six starts, twirled eight innings of one-run ball against an Angels offense that has scored just six times over its last four games.

The Angels' rotation is in shambles, with Garrett Richards likely to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, Andrew Heaney trying to avoid the same procedure, Tyler Skaggs not even playing catch and C.J. Wilson not back until the middle of June, at the earliest.

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The bullpen has suffered a tough loss, with closer Huston Street out until at least late May because of a strained oblique muscle. And the defense took a major hit on Monday, when it was announced that shortstop Andrelton Simmons would undergo surgery on his left thumb that would probably keep him out until at least the All-Star break.

But the offense is healthy, relatively speaking, and yet it continues to struggle.

Angels hitters entered Tuesday with the fifth-lowest OPS in the Major Leagues and managed only one extra-base hit in the ensuing contest. They've batted .214 over the last four games, with three extra-base hits in 36 innings. And their cleanup hitter, Albert Pujols, has one hit in his last 17 at-bats, dropping his slash line to .183/.261/.350.

Afterwards, Angels manager Mike Scioscia stressed the importance of "the process."

"There's not one magic pill you give everybody on the offensive side and all of a sudden they wake up and start scoring runs," Scioscia said. "It's a grind, it's a process, and our guys are really good with that. We're just having a little problem getting that motor started. We'll get back to doing the things we need to do. Right now it's tough, and it's gone on longer than any of us are comfortable with. Nobody's taking this lying down. These guys are fighting."

Santiago mixed in a lot more sinkers and threw them mostly 89-90 mph, topping out at 92. In three prior starts, his four-seam fastball velocity has gone from 93.6 to 92.5 to 91.3. The 29-year-old left-hander has noticed the decline, mainly because hitters are fouling off pitches they were previously swinging through. And the Angels' staff has talked to him about it.

But Santiago stressed "there's nothing physically wrong" and didn't express much concern, saying: "Last year I made the All-Star team with the same velocity I was pitching with tonight."

Santiago called the mentality of his team "amazing," regardless of everything that has gone wrong lately.

"We're really positive," he said. "There's a lot of great, veteran guys, so we have a positive mindset."

But the Angels carry a minus-24 run-differential, are less than $5 million below the luxury-tax threshold, sport a thin farm system and don't have many places to turn for outside help.

In two months it'll be July. And at that point, the front office will probably have to decide whether it's time to build for the future or continue to try to win for the present. The Angels can only avoid the former if they find a way to keep their heads above water until then.

It won't be easy.

"That's nothing for any guy in this clubhouse to think about, because that's completely out of anybody's control," Calhoun said of front-office decisions. "But if we just go out and play together, man, you never know what can happen."