By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JUNE 19, 2002
GAME 68 - ANGELS AT CARDINALS
ST. LOUIS -- The Angels starting pitchers are a tight group. Beginning in spring training, they went to dinner together, talked pitching together and simply spent a lot of time together.
And in the last week or so, they've pitched poorly together.
Wednesday it was Aaron Sele's turn, and he gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals before 35,432 at Busch Stadium.
All six runs scored on home runs, two by Placido Polanco, who entered the game with one home run all season. Albert Pujols also hit one, as the Angels starters have given up 15 homers in the past five games.
``It tells me they're pitching aggressively and throwing strikes,'' Angels pitching coach Bud Black said. ``They might not be hitting the locations they need to hit. What I tell them is they're going to give up home runs, every pitching staff does. But solo home runs don't hurt you. Two- and three-run homers hurt you.''
Pujols' two-run homer in the fourth snapped a 1-1 tie in the fourth and Polanco's three-run homer in the fifth broke the game open at 6-1.
``The first two were fastballs right down the middle of the plate; it's easy to drive it out of the park,'' Sele said. ``The third home run is the one that hurt. I thought it was a good pitch. It was a good piece of hitting.''
No Angels starter has thrown a quality start (at least 6 innings, 3 earned runs or fewer) in the past seven games, going back to June 10 when Jarrod Washburn had one against the Pirates. In those seven games, the starters are 1-4 with a 8.91 ERA.
``We need someone to step forward and pitch a great game,'' Black said.
The loss was the Angels' fourth in a row, their longest losing streak since a four-game slide April 20-23. They have lost two consecutive series for the first time since losing back-to-back series to the A's and Mariners April 18-24.
With both the A's and Mariners winning on Wednesday, the Angels fell three games back of first-place Seattle in the American League West and now are only one game ahead of third-place Oakland.
But considering where the Angels are coming from -- the lost 14 of their first 20 games -- no one is worried about the recent slide.
``You never want to press this early,'' said Scott Spiezio, who filled in for Troy Glaus at third base and had three (single, double, home run) of the Angels' seven hits. ``You're going to have stretches during the season when you lose three in a row, four in a row. But you don't want to sit back and analyze two or three losses right now. That's crazy.''
The Angels had chances early against Cardinals starter Matt Morris (10-4). Garret Anderson's two-out single in the top of the first gave the Angels a 1-0 lead, but Polanco's first homer in the bottom of the first tied the game at 1.
In the second, singles by Spiezio and Jorge Fabregas gave the Angels runners at first and second with one out. After fouling off a bunt attempt, Sele swung away and hit a chopper back to Morris to the left of the mound.
Morris looked to second, then threw to first too late to get Sele and the Angels had the bases loaded for David Eckstein. Eckstein, who had three homers and a triple in eight at-bats with the bases loaded this season, hit a grounder to second baseman Fernando Vina, who was shaded toward the bag at second.
Vina fielded the ball, stepped on second and threw to first for a double play that ended the Angels' only real hope to win this one.
After Sele's infield single in the second inning, only one Angel -- Spiezio -- had a hit the rest of the game. He doubled in the fourth and homered in the sixth.
``We had our opportunities,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``When you're facing an outstanding pitcher like Morris, when you get opportunities you have to take advantage of them. He made a terrific pitch to Eckstein.''
ST. LOUIS -- The Angels are believed to be interested in trading for Alan Embree, a left-handed reliever with the Padres. In exchange for Embree, the Padres reportedly would like outfielder Jeff DaVanon, who began the season with the Angels but is now playing for Triple-A Salt Lake.
The Angels, though, probably would prefer to give up outfielder Julio Ramirez.
Embree has been impressive this season, going 3-4 with a 1.09 ERA in 34 games. His primary role would be to face left-handed hitters, an area he's excelled in with the Padres. Left-handed hitters are batting .160 average (8 for 50) against him.
The Angels currently have just one lefty in the bullpen in Dennis Cook.
In 21 games with the Stingers, DaVanon is hitting .333 with four homers and 16 RBIs. In 16 games with the Angels, DaVanon hit .167 (5 for 30) with one homer and four RBIs.
If they want Embree, the Angels might not have much of a choice but to part with DaVanon because Ramirez strained his left calf chasing a fly ball during batting practice Tuesday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Ramirez is hitting .292 (7 for 24) with one homer and five RBIs in 20 games with the Angels this season. He was signed by the Angels March 16 after they claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.
Third baseman Troy Glaus was not in the starting lineup for only the fourth time this season on Wednesday when manager Mike Scioscia decided to give him a rest.
Glaus missed games in April 8 and 9 to serve his suspension for the spring training fight with the Padres. He also missed a game April 17 because of a problem with his contact lenses.
``Troy's been pressing a little bit,'' Scioscia said. ``We want him to take a step back and hopefully relax a little bit.''
Glaus was hitting .310 on May 21, but in the 24 games since then he's hitting .133 (12 for 90), dropping his average to .246.
Today's game between the Angels and Cardinals was moved back from it's original 12:40 p.m. (CDT) to 3:10 p.m. so the Cardinals can hold a memorial service for broadcaster Jack Buck, who died Tuesday at age 77.
Buck's casket will be available for viewing at Busch Stadium from 7-11:30 a.m. and their will be a service at 12:30 p.m. Both are open to the public. The Cardinals will wear a black armband with the initials ''J.F.B.'' for the rest of the season and the initials were printed both in the infield dirt behind second base and in the grass behind the center field fence.
``I remember when I was a 21-year-old rookie in 1980 coming into the city,'' Scioscia said. ``He came up to me and started a conversation with me and wished me well. He had an incredible passion for baseball. You talk about the great announcers like Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell, he wanted to paint a picture. He made anybody who listened to him feel a part of the game.''
The Angels flip-flopped starting pitchers Scott Schoeneweis and Ramon Ortiz in the rotation. Schoeneweis will start today's game and Ortiz will start Friday in Milwaukee. Scioscia said the reason for the switch is primarily to split up the left-handers in the rotation, Schoeneweis and Jarrod Washburn, who pitches Saturday.