Angels struggle to locate offense vs. A's

Angels struggle to locate offense vs. A's

Angels struggle to locate offense vs. A's
OAKLAND -- The Athletics were one of those teams the Angels were supposed to beat up on this season; a division rival they could fatten up against en route to competing for a playoff spot. But very little has gone the way the Angels would've expected.

Their struggles against the low-budget A's -- a team they've now lost five of seven to after dropping Monday night's game, 2-1, at Oakland Coliseum -- is one example. But the most prominent one comes from the Angels' current three-game losing streak, which provides a telling snapshot of an offense that has greatly underperformed all season.

In suffering their third straight one-run loss in Monday's series opener, the Angels mustered five hits, went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and scored in only one of four innings that began with a runner on base. They're now 2-for-26 with runners in scoring position over the last three games -- totaling only five runs during that stretch -- and 5-for-48 over their last five contests.

"I don't know if it's just runners in scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We didn't have a lot of offense tonight all the way around."

The only time the Angels broke through was practically a gift, with Mike Trout hitting a lazy popup near the right-field foul line that bounced off first baseman Daric Barton's glove, landed fair and went for the RBI double that gave them their one run.

It was the only thing that prevented them from a Major League-leading ninth shutout, and it wasn't enough to keep them from falling seven games below .500 (the most since May 4). A's lefty Tommy Milone, who came in with a 4.09 ERA, limited the Angels to just the one run in seven innings, frequently working out of trouble to barely outduel Jerome Williams (two runs in 6 1/3 innings despite walking five).

"I was just trying to throw strikes with all my pitches, and luckily I felt like I did that pretty well tonight," Milone said. "I tried to keep them off-balance and really felt like everything was working."

Erick Aybar singled to start the third, but the three behind him were retired in order. Alberto Callaspo singled to start the fourth, but the middle of the Angels' lineup went down 1-2-3. And Albert Pujols doubled to start the sixth -- giving him his only hit of the night and putting his batting average at .212 -- but Mark Trumbo struck out, then Kendrys Morales and Howard Kendrick were retired on grounders to the left side.

"That's on me," Trumbo said of getting punched out in a key spot. "That [ticks] me off. I need to get him over there [to third]. The intent was there, the execution wasn't. That was a huge part of the game, too. I'll probably be thinking about that one for a while."

The Angels had it set up to crawl back in the eighth, with the top of the order up and Oakland's bullpen in the game, but Ryan Cook pitched a clean inning, part of a run that saw A's pitchers retire 12 straight batters to end the game.

They've replaced hitting coaches, they've released Bobby Abreu, they've called up Mike Trout and they've trotted out lineups galore.

None of it has produced consistent offense for the Angels.

"There's a number of guys that right now aren't swinging the bat to their capabilities," said Scioscia, whose club is now 0-19 when trailing after seven innings and has just three comeback wins this year. "We need that. And right now where our team is, we're in a hole that you're not going to make up in one day, two days. It has to be that pitch-to-pitch grind and just start performing better. That's what we're going to keep striving for."

The Angels came in ranked 13th in the American League in runs, 11th in OPS and ninth in batting average with runners in scoring position -- categories the A's were all last in.

But the A's are 5-2 in the season series, have limited the Angels to 10 runs in their last six meetings and -- despite spending about $100 million less on their payroll -- are currently four games better than them in the standings.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.