ARLINGTON -- To Jered Weaver, it's "a little funk." To Mike Scioscia, it's nothing more than a "soft spot." Whatever you call it, everyone agrees on the antidote: hard shots, one after another, generating noise and energy. And runs. Tripped up by Texas again, 4-2, on a festive Fourth of July in Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, the Angels have lost six of the past eight, bringing the American League West Division closer than they'd prefer.
But rest assured, there is nothing resembling concern in the house of Scioscia. "We're not firing on all cylinders," the skipper said. "We'll get this thing back where it needs to be." It's just a matter, he added, "of getting back in that groove" and "getting that flow we had for the last six weeks." An offense that smoked balls from mid-May through a torrid June has fallen quiet, but that was inevitable. No team hits .320 forever. After stringing together double-digit hit games with amazing regularity, they've had back-to-back nights with only five hits. It was journeyman Jamey Wright silencing the Angels on Wednesday night through six innings, leaving it to a bullpen that was airtight, not allowing a single baserunner from the seventh to the end. Former Dodgers closer Eric Gange finished the job with his 11th save, lowering his ERA to 1.07, familiar territory during his dominance in Los Angeles. Even more impressive was setup man Joaquin Benoit, who struck out the side in the eighth. The clubhouse was as silent as the attack, slipping off quickly to avoid the crowd that had numbered 46,105 and stuck around for the post-game fireworks. "Things aren't going as smoothly as they were the last couple months," said Weaver, who yielded three earned runs on seven hits and two walks. Falling to 6-5, Weaver didn't get much luck in any fashion after the Angels rallied for two fourth-inning runs on four consecutive singles by Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Matthews to seize a one-run lead. But Casey Kotchman bounced into a double play and Garret Anderson grounded out sharply to the mound, ending the threat. Weaver was touched for a tying run in the bottom of the fourth on a single, walk and sacrifice fly, and it stayed that way until the sixth. Sammy Sosa singled through the middle and took off on a hit-and-run, reaching third when Frank Catalonotto slapped a single to left. Marlon Byrd's soft single to center gave the Rangers the lead. Darren Oliver came on in relief to quell the disturbance, setting down three straight hitters. "A couple of seeing-eye ground balls and a dink by Byrd gave them the lead," Weaver said. "Then their bullpen shut us down and did the job." Weaver is convinced this condition ailing the Angels is temporary. "We've got a great group of guys, a great team," Weaver said. "It's just a matter of time before we get out of this little funk." Weaver's discontent with his own work was minimal, involving his pitch count, which swelled to 105 when he departed without getting an out in the sixth. "I need to do what I'm doing later, early -- not be too fine, get outs early," the pitcher said. The only Angels hit after the four straight singles in the fourth was Figgins' leadoff single in the sixth, but he was erased on an unconventional double play started by Wright. "Orlando Cabrera hit a line drive that caught the pitcher," Scioscia said. "He didn't catch the ball." The Rangers added an insurance run in the eighth against Chris Resop on Gerald Laird's second sacrifice fly of the night. Catalanotta and Byrd singled to start the inning, the third hit for each, meaning they outproduced the whole Angels offense. "Continuity [offensively] doesn't mean you're going to do it every night," Scioscia said. "Even during those six weeks, there were some nights we didn't do it. We're talking about a handful of games. "These guys are going to score runs. They're going to get back on the beam. We've hit a soft spot. I don't think it's anything that's scratched the confidence we have on the offensive side. "We just haven't put it together for a few games." The Angels will try to avoid a sweep on Thursday night behind Kelvim Escobar, who faces Robinson Tejeda. The All-Star break is approaching, and after grinding for three months, the Angels can use the time off to kick back, relax and reflect. Before the break, however, they hit New York for three weekend games, and no American League tourists have enjoyed themselves in the Bronx more than the Angels, the only club to own a winning record against Joe Torre's Yankees over the past decade.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.