Key to this Angels loss E-E-asy to pinpoint

Two defensive miscues in seventh drop team to 1-4

Key to this Angels loss E-E-asy to pinpoint

ANAHEIM -- Saturday night probably plays a lot more favorably for the Angels if not for a couple of key errors in the late stages of an eventual 4-1 loss to the division-rival Rangers.

Such is life with a sluggish offense and a razor-thin margin for error.

With the Angels trailing by only a run, converted third baseman Yunel Escobar began the seventh inning by airmailing a routine throw that resulted in two bases for Elvis Andrus. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella then put on a pickoff play but couldn't handle Garrett Richards' throw, sending Andrus to third with one out.

Then Richards gave up an RBI double to Bryan Holaday that put the Angels behind by two.

Four pitches after that, Jose Alvarez surrendered an RBI single to Rougned Odor that increased the deficit to three.

Johnny Giavotella can't handle a pickoff throw in the seventh inning, one of two Angels miscues in the frame.Getty

And roughly 40 minutes later, the Angels were handed their fourth defeat in five games, marking the first time in six years that they have begun a season 1-4.

"What are you going to do?" Richards said after getting charged with four runs (two earned) on eight hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings, a span in which he struck out six. "I just tried to stay under control and make pitches. That's about all you can do out there. We're a good club; I truly believe that. I don't think there's anything to worry about. I don't think anybody's panicking in here."

The Angels signed Escobar knowing he had issues finding the proper arm slot in his transition from shortstop to third base with the Nationals last season, which played a big part in him finishing with the fourth-worst defensive rating at his position, according to FanGraphs metrics.

This was different, though.

Escobar was already playing even with the bag when he ranged to his left to snatch Andrus' grounder. He had plenty of time, but he never set his feet and overthrew first baseman C.J. Cron by several feet.

"He stayed open and tried to flip it over there and just threw it a little bit high," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he sets his feet, he's thrown the ball very well over there, so that's not an issue."

Giavotella regretted calling for the pickoff play that occurred moments later.

He wanted to keep Andrus as close to second base as possible, so that he didn't score so easily on a potential base hit. But Richards has a big arm, and all of his throws come in with natural cutting action, making it difficult to sprint to the bag and catch them at the same time. And Giavotella mishandled a critical one.

"It's not an easy play," Giavotella said. "It's not an excuse, though. I have to catch that ball."

But those mistakes aren't so pronounced if the offense scores more frequently.

The Angels fell behind in the first inning for the fourth time in five days and once again couldn't make up the deficit. Against Cole Hamels and the back end of the Rangers' bullpen, they mustered only five hits, hit into three double plays and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

The Angels finished Spring Training with the second-best OPS in the Majors, at .844.

Six days into the regular season, they sport baseball's second-worst OPS, at .508.

"No doubt, on the offensive side, we need to start getting into our game," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence in this group. We haven't really done some of the things we can this week, but these guys will get it done."

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.