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Bullpen has been consistent problem area for Angels

The SportsXchange

The Los Angeles Angels can't blame their offense anymore. The underperforming unit that led to the firing of long-time hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May leads the majors in several offensive categories, including runs per game, since the start of June.

They can't blame their rotation. A slump that claimed everyone but Jered Weaver for a seven-week stretch from late June into mid-August has turned around. In 31 games through Sunday, that same rotation has a 2.89 ERA, holding opponents to two runs or fewer 21 times.

However, the bullpen has gone nearly wire-to-wire as a trouble spot for the Angels. Twenty-two blown saves rank first in the American League, and 20 losses charged to relievers have done enough damage to leave the Angels on the outside looking in at the playoff race with nine games left in their season.

"I want to make this clear -- at times, our bullpen has functioned at a very high level," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But it hasn't been with the consistency and the continuity that we needed to put us in a better position right now."

General manager Jerry Dipoto made one outstanding move to address the bullpen shortcomings by trading for Ernesto Frieri in May. However, the lack of depth in the relief corps has Scioscia turning to rookies Garrett Richards (a starter) and Nick Maronde (promoted from Class AA as a September call-up) in key situations during must-win games down the stretch.

"If you look at the separation of where we are (from a playoff spot), it points to some things that happened in our bullpen," Scioscia acknowledged.
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