The double-digit deficit in the division is daunting, the injuries seem insurmountable, but Angels Manager Mike Scioscia remains undeterred. As long as his team is mathematically alive and he can find enough healthy players to field a squad, he will not raise the white flag.
“No way will we ever give up on this year,” Scioscia said, though the front office may feel different in late July. “We have more in us, with even this group of guys. Where we are in the standings doesn’t matter. We still have confidence we’re going to turn this thing around and get things going in the right direction.”
Nothing turned for the Angels on Friday night. Reliever Fernando Salas, with two on in the eighth inning, tried to elevate a two-strike fastball to Khris Davis, who belted it over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run to lift the Oakland Athletics to a 7-4 victory in Angel Stadium.
The Angels lost their fifth straight game to fall to 7-15 in June. They have not gained ground on first-place Texas since May 27. They also fell into last place in the American League West, a half-game behind the A’s and 16 games behind the Rangers.
“You just try not to think that everything is over,” said pitcher Jered Weaver, who gave up four runs and eight hits in 42/3 innings. “You have to stay upbeat, positive, try to uplift everybody. It’s a tough thing to do when you’re not winning.”
The teams were tied, 4-4, when Salas, who retired the side in order in a six-pitch seventh, gave up a single to Stephen Vogt and a ground-rule double to Danny Valencia to open the eighth.
Salas jumped ahead of Davis with an 0-and-2 count, but his next pitch was too close to the zone for Davis, whose decisive blast gave him a team-leading 18 homers and 49 runs batted in for the season.
“He was trying to get it up and out to the corner of the plate,” Scioscia said of the home run pitch to Davis, “and he didn’t get enough of either.”
A’s relievers Fernando Rodriguez, Ryan Dull, John Axford and Ryan Madson combined for 51/3 scoreless innings.
Weaver flummoxed the A’s in Oakland last Sunday, using his (not-so) fastball and vast array of off- and way-off-speed pitches to twirl a three-hit, 95-pitch shutout in which he struck out one and walked one.
There would be no repeat performance Friday night. Three batters into the game, Vogt launched an 84-mph fastball over the high wall in right-center field for a solo home run.
The Angels took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first when Mike Trout walked and Albert Pujols crushed a two-run homer an estimated 443 feet to left field. It was the 13th homer of the season for Pujols and 573rd of his career, tying him with Harmon Killebrew for 11th place on baseball’s all-time list.
In the spirit of the silly “Christmas in June” celebration in the stadium, the A’s gift-wrapped a run for the Angels in the bottom of the second.
Andrelton Simmons led off with a single and took third on Johnny Giavotella’s one-out single. Oakland starter Eric Surkamp struck out Kole Calhoun and got Trout to hit a chopper back to the mound.
Surkamp took a few steps toward first and made a long underhand toss that bounced past first baseman Yonder Alonso for an error that allowed Simmons to score for a 3-1 lead.
Consecutive singles by Marcus Semien, Max Muncy and Billy Burns (RBI) to open the third pulled the A’s to within 3-2.
The Angels took advantage of a Semien error to score an unearned run on Trout’s RBI single for a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
The A’s tied it, 4-4, in the fifth when Alonso walked, Semien doubled, Muncy hit an RBI groundout, and Burns hit a sacrifice fly.
The Angels threatened in the ninth when Giavotella singled with one out and Trout singled with two outs, but Pujols grounded out to short to end the game.
Scioscia still thinks the effort is there, even if the results aren’t.
“If there’s any message to be sent, it’s done in a meeting,” he said. “That would happen if guys weren’t playing hard, if their heads weren’t focused on what they need to do. We have some guys who are trying too hard. The message they need now is one of support, and understanding that those guys are giving everything they have in every situation.”