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From last season to this, Angels' problems persist

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports
Cano gets 1st RBI with Mariners in win over Angels
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Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago, right, is relieved by manager Mike Scioscia, center, during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. At left is catcher Chris Iannetta. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mike Trout stood out at second base in the middle innings here, his uniform the color of caramel from the collar to the shins.

He'd seen seven pitches from the 25-year-old left-hander, James Paxton, the last of which had come in at 96 or 97 mph. Trout shot it down the left-field line, like he'd expected the pitch a little down and a little in and hissing angry, and it was just a matter of getting his bat head there, what came natural. He'd turned first base with less than a thought and got low halfway to second, leaning into it already, and in a few strides was skittering headfirst into second.

Seven or eight seconds, maybe, from bat barrel to second base, and the people applauded, as he is what so many of them had come to see. Trout didn't bother to dust himself off, but took his lead, his shoulders rolled slightly forward, the way he always looks like he's a half-step from full speed.

With a ballgame still in the balance, Trout edged away from the bag, reading Paxton, none out, reading the moment, a one-run game, reading the future, the middle of the order coming, and …

Goodnight, Angels fans. Drive home safely.

Massive disappointments last season over 162 games, the Angels just played games 163, 164 and 165.

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Albert Pujols went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in the 8-2 loss to the Mariners. (Getty Images)

Sprung from spring training on a mission to resurrect the franchise, beginning with a reversal of their miserable Aprils of recent seasons, the Angels just went out 0-3 to the Seattle Mariners, were outscored 26-8, and would have been booed from the field Wednesday night had enough of their fans bothered to stick around.

The Mariners, who had extended themselves with their Robinson Cano purchase but by appearances hadn't done nearly enough with the other eight places of their batting order, over three days put up 34 hits, 17 of them for extra bases, all amounting to those 26 runs and three very thorough butt kickings, Wednesday night by the score of 8-2.

They, and not the Angels, were first to the ball, first to the spot. They were willful. They played with precision. See, the Angels aren't the only ones out there who needed to prove themselves with a reasonably capable first step, that needed to announce their arrival into a fresh season, and their departure from a catastrophic season. The Mariners were right there with them, with an equally unconvincing organizational direction, with an equally unsteady front office. The only difference, really, is the Mariners had already settled for the easy answer: They've been through seven managers since 2007. The Angels? Just one.

It was an appropriately doleful Mike Scioscia who addressed three nights of inept pitching and unproductive offense. Only three nights, to be sure, in a season that has 159 of them remaining. But, they had leaned on the April alibi a year ago, when they lost eight of their first 10 games, fell 6½ games behind, and that was that. And two years ago, when they were nine games behind after three weeks. They lost three of four to start 2011, and four of five to start 2010, and by September wouldn't have minded some of April back.

Scioscia did not dismiss the notion that some urgency would be required soon, if not now. The drumbeat of last summer – that being the sound of Arte Moreno's blood pressure spiraling – won't take long to find its rhythm again.

In a few nights that would unveil a healthy Albert Pujols (.167 in the series), a redirected Josh Hamilton (.300, but four strikeouts Wednesday night) and a rebuilt pitching staff (ERA 8.33), the Angels already seek answers to, at the very least, a bullpen that in 10 innings has allowed 13 hits – five of them home runs, seven walks and 12 runs.

"Nothing went right for us this series, obviously," Scioscia said. "I think the way we need to look at it, it's obvious where things are not working with this club. You want to start seeing some positive things happen."

Maybe it's the fact so little seems to have changed. Trout is batting .400. The rest of the lineup – through, yes, three games – is batting .151. Jered Weaver was OK on opening night. The bullpen, which helped wreck the past two seasons, was atrocious.

Fernando Salas, part of the trade (along with David Freese) that sent Peter Bourjos to St. Louis, entered Wednesday night with two runners on base and none out in the sixth inning. His first pitch was lashed for a two-run double. His second was tapped back to the mound for an out. His third was hit into the left-field bullpen. He arrived in a two-run deficit. He walked off six runs back.

"We're going to exercise patience where patience is needed," Scioscia said.

Later he added, "On the mound we really were 180 degrees from where we were in spring training."

At the end, near the end anyway, Trout stood out at third base in the third lost cause of the week. There was hardly any crowd remaining. The Mariners' buses were idling. He'd ripped a 3-and-2 fastball to left field that drove in a run. Hit so hard the ball had jammed between seams in the fence, Trout had rounded first, then second, and in 12 or 13 seconds, maybe, he'd skittered headfirst into third base.

He didn't bother to dust himself off.

They tried to will themselves and work themselves into a fast start. They tried to eliminate doubt. They tried to roll into a season that would mean change, and it's hardly too late for that. It's hardly too late to have a decent week even.

But this wasn't good. They could have used a little good. Hell, what they could have used was a bullpen, to start there.

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