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Halos' bullpen stretched thin in loss

Halos' bullpen stretched thin in loss

ANAHEIM -- The popular song claimed it never rains in Southern California. Joel Pineiro, who might not pitch again this season, rain or shine, would beg to differ.

"When it rains," Pineiro said on Wednesday, clear skies having given way to darkness in the land of Angels, "it pours."

Following a 7-3 loss and three-game sweep by the Red Sox, the Angels are a .500 team after 104 games, fading out of the American League West race with two of their five starting pitchers unable to help.

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Good luck finding silver linings here in Orange County.

Reeling from their first three-game home sweep since June 2007 by the Royals, the Angels now have to cope with the loss of Pineiro, one of their most consistent starters, for six to eight weeks -- essentially for the rest of the season -- with a strained left oblique muscle.

"It happens to baseball teams everywhere," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It got us today. I think Joel's been throwing the ball the best in his life."

Pineiro felt the pain in his side midway through his pregame warmup session in the Angels' bullpen. Delivering a curveball from a stretch, he initially thought it was a cramp.

"I tried to stretch it out," he said. "I'd never had it before. It's one of those freak things that happen."

Pineiro was incredulous when an MRI showed a strain severe enough to shut him down for perhaps two months, with two months of season left.

"I was like, `You've got to be kidding,'" Pineiro said. "I'm really frustrated. Angry. We needed a win today. It was a big game, and I wanted to be out there."

Pineiro, trying to be optimistic, wasn't prepared to close the book on the season.

"Everyone recovers differently," he said. "We'll see what happens."

The Angels have their rotation set up for the weekend series with the Rangers -- Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Jered Weaver facing off against Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman and Cliff Lee, in that order.

But after that, it becomes murky. Scott Kazmir is not ready to rejoin the rotation, leaving two open spots. Trevor Bell, returned to Triple-A Salt Lake after a disappointing showing on Sunday in Texas, is a logical candidate. Beyond that, it's uncertain where the Angels will turn, with Sean O'Sullivan toiling in Kansas City following the deal for infielder Alberto Callaspo.

Southpaw Daniel Davidson (8-2) leads Salt Lake in wins and innings pitched, with a 5.17 ERA, and former Major Leaguer Eric Junge, a big right-hander, has made four starts, going 1-0 with a 2.97 ERA.

Trevor Reckling and Tyler Chatwood, generally considered the organization's premier starting prospects, are excelling at Double-A Arkansas but are unlikely to be jumped to the Majors.

As daunting as the challenge appears, Angels general manager Tony Reagins dismissed the notion that his club will now become sellers, rather than buyers, in the market with the non-waiver Trade Deadline arriving on Saturday afternoon.

"We would consider any more that would strengthen us, whether it's this year or the future," Reagins said.

According to a report out of Chicago, Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee used his contractual right to nix a trade to the Angels. Reagins would neither confirm nor deny it.

"We've inquired over the past months and reached out to several clubs over the availability of players who could help us," Reagins said. "I'm not going to comment specifically on any player on another club."

The Angels used a pitching staff by committee on Wednesday. The plan was working just fine until Fernando Rodney loaded the bases in the eighth inning and Marco Scutaro launched a grand slam.

"Rodney has real good pitches," Scutaro said. "His fastball is just moving. His two-seamer is pretty hard, kind of heavy, and the changeup is pretty good, too. I guess I got lucky this time."

The Red Sox played long ball, with Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall and Kevin Youkilis unloading homers before Scutaro sent the telling blow into the left-field corner for his second career slam.

Facing Josh Beckett, the Angels drew even in the second inning with two-out RBI singles by Bobby Wilson and Reggie Willits in the second inning and took the lead in the fifth on Willits' hustle and initiative.

Lofting what appeared to be a harmless popup into shallow right, Willits reached second with a double when Hall lost the ball in the bright sky. Erick Aybar's bunt and Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly had the Angels leading by a run.

The lead held until Youkilis homered to left in the seventh.

Scot Shields, making his first start since 2003, used 52 pitches to get five outs, departing with a 2-0 deficit on homers by Beltre (No. 17) and Hall (No. 11) in the second inning.

Francisco Rodriguez restored order, shutting down the Sox for 2 1/3 innings before turning it over to fellow right-hander Rich Thompson. The Aussie surrendered the tying homer to Youkilis (No. 19), the lone blemish in three innings of work. Scutaro's blast was his sixth.

After getting swept by the Angels in the AL Division Series last October, the Sox have responded with a vengeance, going 7-0 against Scioscia's club.

The Angels have a day off to nurse their wounds and contemplate their options before hosting a three-game weekend series with the Rangers, who have taken six of nine in the season series.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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