After allowing a ninth-inning walk-off homer in Friday night's game, reliever Justin Speier continued to fall prey to the red-hot Rays.
"You can just put these two losses, Friday and today [Sunday], on me," Speier said. "I just haven't made my pitches like I normally would. I'm going to iron it out. [I] was cruising along for a little bit, and this game will humble you in a heartbeat."
Speier, brought in to collect the final out in the sixth inning, allowed hits to the first three batters he faced, including
a three-run homer by Carl Crawford. The right-hander struggled to take charge on the mound, just missing Carlos Pena's head
with a pitch and issuing another errant throw in which he didn't cover the plate, granting B.J. Upton an easy run.
Manager Mike Scioscia said the call to bring in Speier stemmed from starter Ervin Santana's early struggles, noting that "enough was enough" for the right-hander who tossed a season-high 113 pitches.
Santana tossed 33 pitches in the game's opening frame, allowing three runs on four hits, but settled down to hold the Rays to one run over the next 4 2/3 innings. He was also charged with Speier's first run, and allowed a season-high nine hits over a season-low 5 2/3 innings.
"It took [Santana] a little while to get his bearings in the game, but his arm was live," Scioscia said. "He had good stuff; he just wasn't exactly where he needed to be [early on]."
Although Santana had managed to strike out left-handed hitter Akinori Iwamura in his previous at-bat, the club made the call to the bullpen in favor of a fresh arm.
Speier, who has fared better vs. left-handed hitters in his career, has struggled to retire them in his last few outings. Sunday afternoon was no different, as Iwamura doubled and Crawford launched a hanging slider over the fence.
Speier, who registered a 2.88 ERA last season, is now 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA. Despite his frustrations, Speier says the only solution is to continue to battle and let his arm sort itself out.
"Sometimes you get into a funk and try to figure too much out, and sometimes less is more," he said. "So I'm just going to go out there and continue to make good pitches and get out of this thing."
Pitching coach Mike Butcher is also fully confident that the hurler will regain his form and rediscover the strike zone.
"[Santana is] just overpowering the slider," Butcher explained. "He's either hooking it or not giving it a chance to break."
Indeed, all the right breaks were reserved for the Rays, who were on the better end of several questionable calls on Sunday afternoon, including a play at the plate that saw Vladimir Guerrero ruled out in the middle of a fifth-inning rally.
The Halos' dormant bats, stifled by Rays pitching in the first two games of this series, tried to take advantage of starter Andy Sonnanstine, who appeared to be struggling early on. The usually accurate right-hander matched his season high of two walks and was tagged for five runs in five innings, the shortest outing for a Tampa Bay starter this series.
Sonnanstine's struggles benefited several slumping Halos. Torri Hunter, 3-for-16 in his previous five games, went 3-for-4 and raised his season average to .307. Rookie Sean Rodriguez got his first hit in three games, and Garret Anderson continued to climb back from his early-season slump, going 2-for-4 to raise his average to .246 with 21 RBIs.
Still, the Angels were swept for just the second time in club history by Tampa Bay. The previous sweep occurred Aug. 26-28, 2005.
"They have a lot of good things going, and I think we saw it firsthand," Scioscia said. "But our philosophy doesn't change. ... [We've] got to regroup, look for some of these answers in-house and move forward."