Halos hit five homers, but unravel late in loss

Halos hit five homers, but unravel late in loss

Halos hit five homers, but unravel late in loss
OAKLAND -- Nobody's happier to see the Angels' road trip end than their bullpen.

For the fourth time on the team's 10-game road stint, the relief corps blew a save on Wednesday, resulting in a 9-8 defeat and a series loss to the A's.

The culprit this time was right-hander LaTroy Hawkins. After the Halos clawed back from a 4-1 deficit on the strength of three home runs, part of a season-high-tying five for the afternoon, Hawkins gave the lead back in the pen's first inning of work.

The veteran gave up an RBI double to Jemile Weeks, tying the game at 5, then allowed a two-out, two-run single to Yoenis Cespedes. For good measure, Chris Carter followed one batter later with a no-doubter to left-center, plating what proved to be the two winning runs.

Hawkins, who saw a narrow lead turn into a deficit, hung his head as soon as Carter made contact.

"I just couldn't make a pitch when I needed to, that's all," he said.

The Angels' bullpen is mired in its worst stretch of the year. In the 10 games of the now-completed road trip, the Halos' relievers gave up 32 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings, adding up to a disastrous 10.54 ERA.

The bullpen's ERA in 26 games since the All-Star break now stands at 6.65.

The unit is missing two key arms in Jordan Walden and Scott Downs, both currently on the 15-day disabled list. But while Angels manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged that the pair is a big loss for his bullpen, he said that the bullpen as is has to get it done.

"We needed to get to a certain point, and unfortunately we didn't get there," Scioscia said. "LaTroy had a tough sixth inning. At some point, things have to stabilize. We have to be able to get those guys coming out of the pen and making pitches and giving our defense a chance."

The relievers' struggles especially hurt on Wednesday because of the grit the Angels showed in coming back after falling behind, 4-1, and later, too, from 9-5.

An uneven Zack Greinke, making his third start since arriving from the Brewers, gave up four runs in the second inning, with all five of his walks for the game coming in that frame.

The right-hander said he had no feel for either of his fastballs, especially in the second. His two-seamer always seemed to go "almost into the ground," and his four-seamer was constantly "head-high." That lack of fastball command came out of nowhere, too -- Greinke hadn't experienced it at all leading up to Wednesday's game.

"It got a little bit better after the second, but still wasn't good," Greinke said. "I definitely need to pitch better. They played a good game behind me today, helped keep the damage less than it could have been. It was just one of the worst I could control in my career pretty much."

"I told the guys to not be overly aggressive and work him into hitters' counts," said A's catcher George Kottaras, Greinke's teammate in Milwaukee. "Anyone can say that about any pitcher, but I emphasized that he really likes to attack his hitters, especially when he gets ahead. He got shy with his fastball. Being a pitcher out there is a lot of feel, and if you're not feeling it with a pitch, you gotta go to one you think you can be effective with."

The Halos' bats responded with three long balls after the second inning, including the second of designated hitter Kendrys Morales' two home runs for the game, marking his third multi-home run game of the season and ninth of his career.

That gave the Halos a 5-4 lead, which looked like enough to guarantee a series win and a .500 road trip.

But the game was turned over to the bullpen in the sixth. At that moment, perhaps, the Angels should have foreseen that the plane ride home would be a quiet one.

They enter Thursday's off day with a 4-6 road trip to their name, thinking about how close they came to a 5-5 trip even with the relievers' struggles, and what they can do to get all facets of the team working in unison.

"We're not holding the fort very well, that's for sure," Hawkins said. "Hopefully this off-day will do us some good, clear our minds and get back out there to throwing strikes. And not just throwing strikes, throwing the ball where you need to be successful."

Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.