Angels look forward after rough series

Angels look forward after rough series

ANAHEIM -- It's only two games, against the trendy World Series pick and two of the most dominant starting pitchers in the National League. So, in a sense, it was easy for the Angels to brush aside being outscored by 14 runs in the first 18 innings of their 2016 season.

"If you look up the definition of a small sample in the dictionary, you're going to find that these two games are a small sample," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Cubs, which came 24 hours after a 9-0 loss on Opening Day.

"Obviously we're not off on the right foot," Kole Calhoun added, "but there's a lot of baseball still to play."

Indeed, there is.

But the Angels' first two games have highlighted what were probably their biggest fears when Spring Training began. They couldn't generate much offense, their middle relievers couldn't keep deficits within reach, and their starting pitchers faced little margin for error.

The Angels managed seven hits in their two-game set against the Cubs and didn't score their first run until their 15th inning of the year. Fernando Salas, Cam Bedrosian, Cory Rasmus and Mike Morin combined to give up eight runs on seven hits and four walks over a 3 1/3-inning stretch. And Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney were each done in by one bad frame, Richards in the fourth on Monday and Heaney in the third on Tuesday.

"With the team that they've got over there, the margin for error is pretty slim," Heaney said. "Both me and Garrett had one bad inning that really killed us, killed momentum. And then when you've got guys like they've got, starting for them, you know you're going to play some tight games. I think if we give ourselves a chance later in the game, we'll pull through and we'll win the games late. But when you give up big innings, and you really start losing momentum, it can really kill you."

Heaney strikes out seven

Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester each went seven innings against the Angels -- Arrieta allowed three baserunners, Lester four hits -- and each exited only because the scores were lopsided. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols went a combined 0-for-15 with five strikeouts, and the Angels managed only four runners in scoring position and nine total bases -- equaling Dexter Fowler's tally -- in the two games.

This, immediately after a spring in which they won 19 times, ranked second in the Majors in OPS and finished seventh in ERA.

The Angels have a hard time getting off to good starts, regardless of how their Cactus League stats look. They dropped four of six in their first week of 2015, were outscored by 18 runs in their first series of '14, went 2-8 to begin '13 and lost 15 times in the month of April in '12.

The uphill climb continues once again.

The Angels hope it's a short one.

"It's two losses -- that's it," Scioscia said. "We didn't give ourselves much of a chance on the offensive side, we didn't get as much done on the mound as we needed. But we're going to get better as a group. We are. We really believe in that. We think that our team is going to be able to do a lot of different things that we weren't able to do in these two games."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.