By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
APRIL 18, 2002
GAME 15 - ANGELS AT A’S
OAKLAND -- This one, they couldn't blame on Tim Salmon.
With Salmon on the bench to rest his sagging ego, the Angels' offense struggled against the Oakland A's No. 5 starter and lost, 4-2, before 9,145 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Starting pitcher Eric Hiljus beat the Angels for the second time this season, holding them to four hits through seven innings. The Angels managed a solo home run by Scott Spiezio in the sixth inning and a sacrifice fly by Brad Fullmer -- his first RBI of the season -- in the eighth. The Angels finished with seven hits, dropping their team batting average to .220.
After the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia met with several Angels hitters to ''bounce some things off them.''
''As far as the chemistry of the team, as far as the desire to win on the club, all the intangibles are absolutely in place,'' Scioscia said. ''You won't find a group of guys more accountable and who take it harder than these guys. In the long run that's what's going to turn it around. These guys are too talented to have an extended drought.
''We're trying to get offensive momentum going in the right direction. That's what's frustrating, not one game. Right now we've got key pieces of the offense making it difficult for us to get the continuity we're looking for.''
Salmon, hitting .143, is one of those key pieces. Troy Glaus, who is hitless in his past 19 at-bats, is another. Garret Anderson, batting .211, is yet another.
''I can't explain it,'' said Glaus, who had a home run overturned by the umpires in Thursday's game. ''Guys are just missing pitches. We have to string together two, three, four hits in a row. When teams are going well, that's what they do.''
Glaus came to bat in the sixth inning following Spiezio, who had homered to tie the game at 1. On the first pitch from Hiljus, Glaus hit a liner down the left-field line over the fence. Doug Eddings initially ruled the ball fair and Glaus circled the bases for what he thought was his fourth homer of the year.
''I didn't see it,'' Glaus said. ''I didn't think it was going to go that far, so I was running for a double.''
A's manager Art Howe argued briefly before the umpires converged to discuss the play. Moments later, the call was overturned, which got Scioscia out of the dugout to argue.
''I don't think there was anything in that play that said it was so obviously foul to overturn it,'' Scioscia said.
Replays were inconclusive, though the ball appeared to hit the foul pole after deflecting off a back wall.
''I pretty much lost it,'' Eddings explained. ''As soon as it hit, I called it fair. I heard it hit concrete. It was just one of those things when you know you made the wrong call. The other three umpires had it foul. The only reason to reverse a call is if you're 100 percent certain.''
Angels starter Ramon Ortiz pitched well until he gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Pena, Jason Giambi's replacement at first base, in the seventh inning on a hanging changeup. Terrence Long and Jeremy Giambi hit solo homers for the A's other two runs.
Long also had a busy day in the field, making 10 putouts in center field, two short of the major league record for a center fielder. Three of the catches were outstanding plays, including a diving catch in shallow left-center on a sinking liner by Adam Kennedy to end the game.
''Believe it or not was saw some better signs on the offensive end,'' Scioscia said. ''We hit some balls hard. Long had a terrific day in center field for them, and that changed some things. I felt good with some of the things we did. Still it's frustrating not to get it done.''
OAKLAND -- Right fielder Tim Salmon was benched for Thursday's game against the Oakland A's as the Angels grow increasingly concerned about his continuing struggles.
Salmon is hitting .143 with no homers and three RBIs in 13 starts, which, by itself might not be much to worry about. But Salmon had a career-worst season last year, hitting .227 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs.
''We're all looking for answers,'' Salmon said. ''I don't know what the answer is right now. ... You can't put your finger on something to get you going. If there was an answer, would I be stupid enough to put myself through this?''
Jeff DaVanon started in Salmon's place Thursday and went 1-for-4. Manager Mike Scioscia admitted that Salmon's starting job is not guaranteed. Salmon is making $9.25 million this season, the most on the team.
''We're not going to sit here and commit to lineups down the road right now when we don't really know what the production level will be,'' Scioscia said. ''His confidence has taken a big blow. He's dealing with ghosts of last season. I don't know if he realizes how strong and quick his bat is compared to last season.''
Scioscia, though, emphasized the importance of Salmon to the team's success this season.
''The ultimate goal is to get Tim Salmon productive and playing well,'' he said. ''He's too big a piece of the puzzle to this team. How do we get there? There's a lot to consider. If it means taking a step back and not playing for a while, that will be considered.
''Right now it's the toughest thing he's gone through in his career.''
Scioscia also said that the Angels' offensive struggles this season -- the are hitting .220 as a team -- can't be blamed solely on Salmon.
''We've made an adjustment that points to Tim, but you can't purely make him the scapegoat,'' Scioscia said. ''As a group the guys have not gotten into the swing. There's more than one reason why we're stuck in the mud.''
''We have not played good offensively at all and I know I'm a big part of it,'' he said. ''I don't think I'm the only guy in here feeling a little bit down about performance. For me it's kind of like being the starting quarterback -- you're going to get the attention.''
Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said he doesn't believe the 33-year-old Salmon's skills have deteriorated.
''We'll have to see,'' Stoneman said. ''He played with a whole lot of skill in 2000. We just saw it in spring training (when Salmon hit .404). We saw a great performer in the spring. This isn't a physical thing, it's a mental thing.''
Third baseman Troy Glaus was back in the lineup Thursday with a new pair of contact lenses. Glaus came out of Tuesday's game after three innings and missed all of Wednesday's game because he had trouble keeping the lenses in place.
Going into Thursday's game Glaus was in a 0-for-15 slump, his average down to .195. The new lenses didn't help his performance, as Glaus went 0-for-4 to extend his hitless streak to 19 at-bats.
''I saw the ball a lot better today,'' Glaus said. ''Hopefully it carries over. Unfortunately it didn't result in any hits, but it definitely felt better.''
The A's played Thursday without third baseman Eric Chavez, who has a strained hip flexor muscle. Outfielder Jermaine Dye, out since he broke his left leg when he fouled a ball off it in the playoffs last season, will be activated Saturday.