Angels run into tough arms, drop 5th straight
Offense has struggled against Kazmir, Greinke and Kershaw on road trip
LOS ANGELES -- In three days, the Angels have faced the no-doubt American League Pitcher of the Month for July, the sure-fire National League Pitcher of the Month for July and a man not far removed from the fourth-longest scoreless-innings streak in modern history.
It doesn't get much more challenging than that.
"But we're a team that had been playing good ball a week ago," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "and we beat some tough pitchers a week ago."
The Angels aren't the same team right now, though. They've lost eight of their past nine games, immediately after an uplifting stretch in which they lost only three times in a span of 20. Their latest defeat, a 3-1 loss at Dodger Stadium on Saturday afternoon, extended their losing streak to a season-high-tying five games.
"That's the game; you see a lot of things," Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said in Spanish. "We started the season off bad, then we went on a really good run, and now nothing is going our way."
A sore left wrist kept Mike Trout out of the lineup for back-to-back games in Houston earlier this week, and then the Angels ran into a devastating trio of starting pitchers.
Scott Kazmir shut them out through 7 2/3 innings on Thursday to finish July with a 0.26 ERA. Zack Greinke, who previously reeled off a 45 2/3 scoreless-innings streak, gave up just two runs in eight innings on Friday. And Clayton Kershaw shut the Angels out through the first eight innings on Saturday, extending his scoreless-innings streak to 37 and counting.
"We're running into some tough pitchers that are making good pitches," said Scioscia, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the second inning. "But if you're going to win, you have to find a way to beat tough pitchers. We haven't found a way the last few games. But we'll keep moving forward, hopefully start to get a little continuity on the offensive side and start to regain some momentum."
The Angels didn't land the veteran reliever they wanted before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and they have watched Fernando Salas give up a couple of back-breaking homers over the last three days -- a three-run walk-off to Astros catcher Jason Castro on Thursday and a two-run shot to Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal in Saturday's sixth inning.
"It's tough to swallow," Salas, who entered Thursday with eight consecutive scoreless outings, said in Spanish. "But what can you say, we're working hard. We just have to find a way out of this."
The guys the Angels did get before Friday's Deadline -- outfielders Shane Victorino, David DeJesus and David Murphy -- are a combined 3-for-27 since changing teams.
Now they move to a Sunday game that was supposed to be started by C.J. Wilson, who instead faces the likelihood of season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs. That start will now go to Cory Rasmus, a reliever who hasn't thrown more than 42 pitches in any Triple-A game this season.
If the Angels lose, it'll mark the first time they've gone winless in a road trip of at least six games since 1999.
"There's no doubt everybody's out there playing hard, trying to win the game, and that's all you can ask," said Andrew Heaney, charged with two runs over 5 1/3 innings on Saturday. "Sometimes the ball goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. We've faced three guys in a row that are really good pitchers."