Angels stymied by Millwood

Angels stymied by Millwood

ANAHEIM -- The Angels shifted gears atop the lineup Monday, but it apparently will take some time to provide some momentum.

The idea, as with any change in personnel, was to increase production, but the Angels continued to see their bats point south as they managed just two base hits and three baserunners on a night when they extended a season-high losing streak to three games.

Chone Figgins took over atop the batting order with Darin Erstad moving to second in the lineup, yet the engine mostly idled as the Indians shut out the Angels, 3-0, behind eight solid innings from Kevin Millwood to open the three-game series.

The Cleveland right-hander struck out eight while allowing just a leadoff double to Jose Molina in the third. The only other baserunner to reach against Millwood was Vladimir Guerrero, who was hit by a two-out pitch in the bottom of the first.

Figgins managed a ninth-inning single off Indians reliever Bob Wickman, when his ground ball squirted past the outstretched glove of second baseman Ronnie Belliard, but most of the night, the Angels sat and watched during their turns at-bat.

"There are going to be periods when you have dry spells in the field and dry spells on the mound and dry spells in the batter's box," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think what is going on right now is everyone in our lineup is struggling to some point."

It is a struggle that would seem of greater urgency if the team were not performing well in other areas. Fortunately for the Angels, the pitching staff has been pulling its weight lately and the club can take solace in the fact it is still a game and a half up in the American League West.

John Lackey did not have his fastball command early in Monday's game and it showed, as he allowed three early runs, two on solo homers. But the right-hander settled down to go seven innings and maintain his line at three runs, enough to post a victory, but only when the offense cooperates.

"You've never going to have nine guys that are swinging the bat well," Scioscia said. "You hope to have one or two guys that are swinging it well enough."

The Angels saw their batting average over the last 14 games fall to .170 on Monday. More troubling, of the eight strikeouts, six were looking. An aggressive lineup by nature, taking pitches is anathema to the Angels and getting called out on strikes is rare for them.

"That is something that is very, very foreign to this team," Scioscia said. "The hitter's counts that we got into, we did not square up on balls."

Erstad was caught looking twice and Figgins was called out on strikes with one down in the third and Molina waiting to be driven in from second base.

"This is part of baseball," Figgins said of the team's offensive woes. "We're such a good team it is way too early to get into a funk right now... No one is giving away at-bats."

Scioscia agreed and is not ready to pick apart a lineup that has scored five or fewer runs during the 14-game cold snap.

"There is no question about the effort of this group," Scioscia said. "Their confidence is where it needs to be. They're just not matching it with production."

Clearly confident was Millwood (1-3), who hadn't recorded a win this season despite allowing more than three earned runs in only one of his six starts this season. The Angels are quiet offensively, but Scioscia felt there was more to it Monday than simple struggles with the bat.

"You have to give credit to Kevin Millwood," Scioscia said. "He pitched about as well as you can to this group. When he had a chance to put hitters away he made pitches."

Lackey (3-2) was bidding for his third straight win and though he did not feel he had his best stuff, he was pleased with his effort. In holding with the popular refrain of the evening, Lackey underscored that the club's confidence level remains unchallenged.

"We've got too many good players and too many good hitters to worry," said Lackey, who took the loss. "In a season you go through cycles. We've been throwing the ball pretty good and we've been winning games. There is going to be a cycle where these guys are going to hit the ball well and we won't have to throw as well."

Travis Hafner got the Indians on the board when his RBI single drove in Coco Crisp in the first. Crisp drilled his third home run of the year to lead off the third and Belliard led off the fourth inning with his sixth homer of the year to put the Indians up, 3-0.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.