Baseball / Sports

New York Yankees' Derek Jeter greets Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver during a ceremony honoring Jeter. Jeter was given a Hobie paddle board as a gift from the Angels in Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Christine Cotter/Orange County Register/MCT)

Angels' season so far is a matter of perspective

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- An ugly first inning that featured two Los Angeles Angels errors, one on a routine fly ball that dropped when Mike Trout and Collin Cowgill collided in right-center field, and two walks led to an unsightly 9-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

The Angels fell to 16-17 and three games behind first-place Oakland in the American League West, and how you assess their season so far depends on your perspective.

The glass-half-empty view: The Angels are 2-8 in one-run games, six of their losses coming in the opponents' last at-bat, and they led at some point in 12 of 17 losses, the highest percentage of losses with blown leads in the majors.

Ernesto Frieri was so shaky in his first 10 games, yielding a 9.35 earned-run average and five home runs, that he lost his closer job April 25.

The bullpen has converted six of 10 save opportunities and allowed 23 of 52 inherited runners (44 percent) to score. If the relievers were more reliable, the Angels could easily be in first place.

The glass-half-full view: The Angels lost cleanup batter Josh Hamilton to a thumb injury April 8, leadoff batter Kole Calhoun to an ankle injury April 15, third baseman David Freese to a hand injury May 2, and they haven't been buried in the division.

Though No. 3 starter Hector Santiago fell to 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA with a rocky 2 1/3-inning start Wednesday night, the rotation has been a full run better this season (3.79 ERA) than it was through 33 games in 2013 (4.80).

The Angels may be treading water, but at least they're not drowning in a 91/2-game deficit like they were through 33 games last season, when they were 11-22 and had gaping holes in the rotation and bullpen.

"I think we're playing well under the circumstances," ace Jered Weaver said. "I think we can be better, though, for sure."

Catcher Chris Iannetta is more of an optimist.

"I know it's difficult from the fans' perspective when you're playing .500 ball, but we've had a decent start," he said. "We don't have to dig ourselves out of a big hole. We're right there."

A .500 record suggests mediocrity, but Iannetta thinks it's OK to spin your wheels for a while as long as you mix in an occasional burst of speed.

"I think the best teams are the ones that play .500 the whole season and then get hot," Iannetta said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be all at once. If you play .500 and win five games in a row, all of a sudden you're five games up.

"You play .500 for another month and win another five straight, you're 10 games over. By the end of season you could be 20 games over, but the majority of the time you're playing .500 ball. That's the sign of a good team to me."

Despite the injuries, the Angels ranked second in the major leagues in runs per game (5.2), third in runs (166) and fourth in home runs (40) before Wednesday.

Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Trout and Erick Aybar have led the offensive, reserve Ian Stewart had some big hits in April, and C.J. Cron has eight hits and three runs batted in in his first five big league games.

"We're going out there and scrapping," Weaver said. "When we get those guys back who are on the shelf right now, it's going to make it that much better."

Calhoun and Hamilton traveled to Arizona on Wednesday night to resume their rehabilitations. Calhoun hopes to return by late next week. Hamilton, who will begin hitting off a tee Friday, could be back by May 26. Freese should return May 18.

And key late-inning reliever Dane De La Rosa may need only one more rehabilitation inning at triple A before he returns from shoulder and forearm injuries.

"Whether we have those guys in the lineup or not, we need to hold leads better," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That needs to improve, and we feel it will."

KEY MOMENT: With a runner on first and none out in the first inning, Derek Jeter lofted a routine fly to the gap in right-center field. Angels center fielder Mike Trout and right fielder Collin Cowgill both called for it, and neither heard the other. The two collided, the ball hit Trout's glove and fell to the ground, and Cowgill was charged with an error that opened the door for the Yankees to score five runs.

AT THE PLATE: Jeter, in his final regular-season game in Anaheim, ended a 161-at-bat homerless streak with a solo shot to left-center in the second inning. Mark Teixeira keyed the five-run first with a two-run double, and Brian Roberts had a run-scoring single. Cowgill had two chances to put significant dents in five-run deficits, but he popped out to first with the bases loaded to end the second and lined out to center with the bases loaded to end the seventh. The Angels are three for 21 with runners in scoring position over their last four games.

ON THE MOUND: Tough-luck left-hander Hector Santiago, who has received 15 runs of support in seven starts, rolled an ankle when he fielded Brett Gardner's first-inning dribbler and made an off-balance throw that sailed past first baseman Albert Pujols for an error. Santiago remained in the game but seemed to have trouble finishing his pitches and was pulled in the third. Rookie right-hander Mike Morin got into -- and out of -- a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fourth by getting Teixeira to ground into a 3-2-3 double play.

PARTING GIFT: The Angels honored Jeter with a pregame video tribute, and Pujols, Trout, Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver presented the Yankees shortstop with a stand-up paddleboard that featured the Yankees' logo and pinstripes.

QUOTEBOOK: "I don't like the word 'hype' around him because it's all deserved. He can do everything. He can beat you in any way imaginable on the field. He has a very bright future and present." --Jeter on Trout, the 22-year-old star who many people believe will replace Jeter as the face of baseball.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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