ANAHEIM, Calif.--Mike Scioscia says he has the remedy for his slumping Angels, who matched a season low by losing their fourth game in a row Friday, falling, 4-2, to the Boston Red Sox.
"Play better," the manager said. "You've got to play better."
That's it? And they said this game was complicated.
If the solution really is that simple, it's one the Angels might want to try soon since Friday's game marked the start of a crucial stretch that will include the team playing 12 straight games against teams that are at least 12 games under .500.
And between now and Sept. 15 the Angels face just one opponent -- the division-leading Oakland Athletics -- with a winning record.
Given current circumstances, Scioscia insists he'll be taking those games one at a time.
"What's a stretch?" he said. "A stretch is made up of a series of games. We're going to keep playing hard. We'll let you guys count up (the wins)."
You could count up the Angels' wins in August with one hand -- and you wouldn't even need all your fingers. It's a slump that has pushed the team four games back in the division standings for the first time in a month while cutting its lead in the American League wild-card standings to 51/2 games.
Which is why third baseman David Freese, who played through three pennant races with the St. Louis Cardinals, said it's important to have a short memory this time of year.
"When things aren't going too hot, you understand that you just turn the page and move on," he said. "You're taught to kind of let things slide, good or bad, and keep moving forward.
"Some guys are better than others at it. Things float in your mind and you try to kick them out if they're negative and try to stick with all the positive stuff. But we're all human and we all go through the ups and downs."
The Angels offense has certainly seen its share of ups and downs lately. Coming out of the All-Star break the team led the majors in runs and on-base percentage and led the AL in hits. But the Angels are batting just .225 since the break and averaging nearly two fewer runs per game.
"We haven't swung the bats the way we can. And I think it starts with that," Scioscia said.
It's been a collective slump with Mike Trout hitless in his last 12 at-bats, Josh Hamilton batting .111 over the last week and Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar hitting below .139 for August.
"Hopefully these guys get comfortable and start swinging like they can," Scioscia said. "Outside of that we need to continue to pitch. And our bullpen's been terrific. There's a lot of components that add up to a win."
The math worked against the Angels on Friday with the team managing just four hits through 62/3 innings off Red Sox starter Allen Webster, the same number of hits Boston got in the third inning.
The patient Red Sox forced Angels starter Jered Weaver to throw 35 pitches in that inning, with Dustin Pedroia -- who batted three times in the first four innings -- driving in the first run with a one-one single and Yoenis Cespedes knocking in his first two runs with the Red Sox on a double one out later.
Cespedes gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, misplaying Chris Iannetta's double in the left-field corner, allowing Efren Navarro to score from first. Trout's sacrifice fly two batters later closed the deficit to 3-2.
But Mike Napoli's two-out homer in the fifth inning off Weaver, who lost for the first time in 10 starts, gave the Red Sox a little more breathing room and took a little more air out of the slumping Angels' playoff plans.
"That's what makes the opportunity to play in October even greater. Because it's that tough to get there," said Freese, who hasn't missed the postseason since his rookie season in 2010. "We're in August and we see what we're capable of doing. That makes it exciting."
Red Sox 4, Angels 2
KEY MOMENT: The patient Red Sox, who have seen more pitchers than any team in the majors, forced Angel starter Jered Weaver to labor through a 35-pitch third inning in which they scored three times. By the seventh inning Weaver, who hadn't lost since mid June, was gone....After the Angels put the tying runs on with two outs in the ninth, Boston closer Koji Uehara struck out Kole Calhoun looking to end the game
AT THE PLATE: Boston's Dustin Pedroia had his sixth two-hit game in nine tries, driving in one run and scoring another in the Red Sox's three-run third. Yoenis Cespedes extended his modest hitting streak to four games, driving in his first two runs for the Red Sox with a double while ex-Angel Mike Napoli hit his 14th homer of the season in the fifth. For the Angels Mike Trout's scoring fly ball in the third inning gave him 80 runs driven in for the season, a club record from the second spot in the batting order. Calhoun had two singles for the Angels.
ON THE MOUND: Former Dodger prospect Allen Webster, acquired by the Red Sox in a nine-player trade two years ago, held the Angels to two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings to earn his third big-league win.
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