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Slumping Angels fall to Orioles again

September 17, 2011 |  6:51 pm

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Angels Manager Mike Scioscia has long said his team will go only as far as its starting pitchers carry it. If that is true, the Angels probably won't go much further.

On Saturday, the Orioles pounded the Angels' Ervin Santana for two home runs in a five-run first inning, then cruised to a 6-2 win. The Angels' fourth loss in six games left them at least 3 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West standings with 11 games to play.

Santana, who has lost his last three starts, struggled from the outset, walking leadoff hitter Matt Angle on four pitches and then giving up a two-run homer to the next batter, J.J. Hardy. After a single and a walk, Mark Reynolds followed with a three-run homer.

Santana drilled the next hitter, Nolan Reimold, and hit Reynolds in the head when he came to bat again in third inning, earning a warning from plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

Although Santana eventually settled down, giving up one more hit before leaving after seven innings, the Angels never did get their offense on track against Baltimore starter Zach Britton (10-10), who struck out a career-high seven in seven innings did not give up a hit until Mike Trout's infield single with one in the fifth.

Trout later scored on Bobby Wilson's sacrifice fly. The Angels' only other run came after a leadoff walk and Vernon Wells' two-out triple in the ninth, but by then the game had been decided.

And you might able to say the same about the pennant race given how the Angels' Big Three of Santana, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have pitched lately.

Through mid-August the right-handers were a combined 35-19 with a 2.59 earned-run average. Since then they are 8-9 with an ERA nearly two runs higher.

Fatigue might be a factor. After pitching seven innings Saturday, Santana (11-12) has matched his career high for innings with 222 2/3. And he is in line for two more starts.

Weaver will start Sunday needing three innings to match his career high. He entered August 14-5 with a 1.88 ERA but has lost a couple of miles off his fastball since then, going 3-2 with a 4.84 ERA in his last seven starts.

Even Haren (15-9), who has thrown more than 215 innings in each of the last seven seasons, is nearing uncharted waters needing seven innings in his final two starts to equal his career high.

But the Angels had little choice but to ride their horses down the home stretch. Fourth starter Joel Pineiro (6-7, 5.33) has been so inconsistent that he lost his spot in the rotation for a time. And while Jerome Williams has won three of his four starts, he was in the minor leagues a month ago.

"We put a lot of time into making evaluations and looking at options," Scioscia said of his decision to scramble his rotation to get Weaver three more starts. "It’s a calculated risk with anything you do.  Weav doesn’t see it as any issue. Nor does [pitching coach] Mike Butcher. That certainly gives me the confidence to know that he's not going to be at any risk."

The Angels' pennant hopes? Well, they are at risk. But if the Angels are going to come up short, they are going to do it riding the guys that got them close in the first place.

RELATED:

Angels deal themselves setback with 8-3 loss to Orioles

Nick Adenhart's legacy lives on in Baltimore

-- Kevin Baxter in Baltimore

Photo: Ervin Santana. Credit: Joy R. Absalon / US Presswire

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