In 2002, the Angels matched their slowest start in club history by losing 12 of their first 18 games, a feat the team duplicated on Wednesday after losing to the Rays. The team would go on to earn the Wild Card spot with a 99-63 record before beating the Twins and Yankees in the American League playoffs and the Giants in the World Series.
More recently, the Angels began the 2009 campaign with a 7-11 start and finished April with a 9-12 mark. By the end of May, the Angels were still only one game over .500, but they went on to win 99 games and claim the American League West title.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who is in his 13th season at the helm, fully understands how a 162-game campaign can develop. More importantly, he knows how a team works itself out of a funk.
"We had a terrific Spring Training and we thought we'd hit the ground running, but that hasn't happened," Scioscia said. "The record is not what's part of the big picture. What's part of the picture is how you play the game. I think that's where all of our focus is.
"We're not firing on all cylinders. A lot of components aren't in place where we need them to be. That's what our focus is going to be. Getting everything from getting our offense going, to starting pitching, pitcher-catcher relationship, bullpen, everything."
In 2002, the Angels received a five-hit performance by Ramon Ortiz over eight innings in a 1-0 road loss to the Mariners, a day after Scott Schoeneweis failed to make it through three innings in a 16-5 defeat to Seattle. While the Angels fell to 6-14 on the season, Ortiz had done enough to spare the bullpen and give the team some momentum.
They reeled off eight wins in a row and won 22 of their next 26 games. The Angels had a 30-21 record at the end of May and were well on their way to a successful season.
"Sometimes all it takes is a little thing to happen where a ball falls in for a hit, getting a key walk, whatever it takes to ignite a hot streak," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence in our team. There are ebbs and flows to a season. The theme I've been telling them is, 'Less is more.' It starts with good at-bats, making good contact and allow that to take over."
Scioscia said frustration has creeped in to the team's psyche, but he has reminded them to focus on the simple things, rather than a grand result. The Angels manager discussed players trying to hit the ball up the middle or make contact with runners on base instead of producing monstrous home runs and lively fastballs.
"I think there's a certain connection you have with a player, not just the offensive side, it also goes with the pitching side," Scioscia said when asked if he talks to specific players about their particular struggles. "You see some guys who pitch at 91 [mph] that try to throw at 94. Guys trying to get out of an 0-for-20 with a 420-foot home run, or a guy with someone on third base expanding the zone with two outs, just trying to do too much.
"You start with a line drive up the middle, a good at-bat. There's a level of play you have to maintain to be consistent. There's a lot of conversations you have with players about the game, but the most [important thing] is we have to make good contact and see where we are."
Interestingly enough, Scioscia pointed out how Torii Hunter has been an example of good plate discipline and approach since the start of the season.
"If you look at what Torii did early in the season where he wasn't getting too big, he was producing line-drive hits," Scioscia said. "Those are the types of things we're talking about."