Offense is nowhere to be found

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “A lot of the blame is on us,” Adam Kennedy said. Not the umpires, although they continued to drive the Angels to distraction. Not just the Sox pitchers, though Freddy Garcia was the third in a row to shade the corners of the plate for nine innings. Us. “It’s the same pitches they threw me all year,” said Vladimir Guerrero (through interpreter Alfredo Griffin), whose .206 playoff average after four worm-ticklers Saturday is the most shocking of the Angels’ slumps. “I’m just not swinging good.” The Angels have sunk from merely losing to the White Sox to being utterly embarrassed by Chicago’s pitchers, and have gone from tipping their proverbial caps in respect for their opponents to sounding like a room full of George Costanzas. It’s not them, it’s us. There was no denying it in the silence of the home clubhouse after the Angels rolled over against the White Sox 8-2 on Saturday night to fall behind 3-1 in the first-to-four series for the American League pennant. ANAHEIM – Their pop-ups aren’t even major-league pop-ups anymore. Their ground balls can be called worm-killers only at the risk of insulting the speed and fortitude of the average worm. It has reached the sad stage where you wonder if the Angels would have any offense at all, if not for the reliable extra-base pop of Robb Quinlan and Casey Kotchman. center_img Guerrero insists he isn’t being limited by his nagging injuries. Is that supposed to be good news or bad news? It sure looks as if the Angels are psyched out by something, whether it’s the memory of umpire Doug Eddings’ Game 2-deciding mistake at home plate or just snowballing self-doubt as winter looms one loss away. “You can see it (frustration) in all their faces,” said Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. “We’ve got to back off a little and bring it back to us. If these guys relax, we’ll be fine.” But if the forecasts are correct, there’s a better chance of a ballgame getting rained out in Southern California today than the Angels getting to the World Series. For those who say they’d rather watch the worst baseball game than the best football game, Saturday was the supreme test. Fans in Anaheim cheered USC’s desperate win over Notre Dame on the video screen before the first pitch, and those in the suites sneaked peeks at UCLA’s comeback against Washington State between pitches, and everybody tried not to nod off when the Angels came to bat. This started out way too much like the night before, when the Angels also trailed 3-0 – also on a Paul Konerko home run – before they picked up a bat. On Friday, the players rejected the post-game interviewers’ suggestion that they looked a little flat early on. So it was interesting to read Paul Byrd’s lead on one of the columns the pitcher is writing for “We looked a little flat early on,” Byrd began after Friday’s game. The writers, always so negative. It’s not that the Angels have been passive. As always under Mike Scioscia’s managing, they’ve been aggressive. When they’re going well, their free swinging and daredevil baserunning makes big innings out of little innings. When they’re not, that style kills them. They began Saturday with a grand total of one walk in the three games against Chicago starters Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland. That’s not all about the pitchers. Darin Erstad stood and watched four Garcia pitches miss the strike zone in the second inning. While stadium medics worked to revive the fainting patrons, Kotchman took two balls and hit a topper that Garcia threw past first base, and Bengie Molina drove in Kotchman with the Angels’ first base hit with runners in scoring position in 26 innings. Erstad’s walk was the Angels’ seventh, that’s all, in nine playoff games. Not that walks are a good idea or anything, but of the seven Angels to walk, five have come around to score. “They (White Sox pitchers) get early leads, and that makes it easier for any pitcher,” said Kennedy, who’s down to .214 for the playoffs, which makes him Rod Carew compared to Chone Figgins (.114), Garret Anderson (.206) and Steve Finley (.150). “And we haven’t put on any pressure to give them reason to panic. “Four games against them now, we haven’t swung the bats well. We got away with it the first game.” Strikeouts, weak pop-ups, 14-hop grounders. The Angels hit a couple of balls hard every night, just to tease. Erstad issued the customary “This thing’s not over” late Saturday night. But the Angels are, quite literally, not walking the walk. They’ve scored 15 runs in the past six games against the Yankees and White Sox. The worrisome thing is that they went through seven such punchless stretches of six games during the regular season. They might like to think this is just a little bump on the way to the World Series. Instead they’re facing facts, they’re back in a rut at the worst possible time, hitting the way they did when we couldn’t see them getting this far. Kevin Modesti’s column appears in the Daily News three days a week. He can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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