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Angels can't recover from early deficit

Angels can't recover from early deficit

TORONTO -- If the Angels looked a little homesick on Sunday, it was, after all, the end of a 10-day journey through the Eastern time zone.

Spotting the Blue Jays a six-run advantage after two innings, manager Mike Scioscia's athletes were humbled, 8-3, at Rogers Centre.

"You don't give too much hope for your team when you give up six runs in an inning and two-thirds," rookie Trevor Bell said, his third Major League start lasting longer than the time it took to speak that sentence, but not much longer.

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The journey that started in Baltimore and included Cleveland featured a five-game winning streak before ending with losses in three of the last four outings.

Even with the Rangers shutting down the Rays to move to within 5 1/2 games of the Angels' American League West lead, Scioscia and Co. actually gained a game on their 6-4 trip, embarking for Baltimore with a 4 1/2-game cushion.

"I don't want to look back," said Scioscia, who keeps the focus on the moment and the day at hand. "But there are a lot of good things that have helped us win games -- and some things that we need to get more consistent with."

Quality starting pitching sits atop that list, and Joe Saunders' projected return on Wednesday against the Tigers with a healthy, sound left shoulder could go a long way in solving that issue.

There are questions about the No. 5 spot in the rotation that will remain unresolved, however, unless someone steps forward and nails it down.

Scioscia was noncommittal about identifying the starter for Friday night against the Athletics, which is when that turn comes around again. Bell is a candidate, along with Matt Palmer and perhaps a mystery guest or two.

"We need that fifth spot, someone who's going to give us a chance to win like the other four guys," Scioscia said.

Like Sean O'Sullivan, who was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake after lasting only one inning on Friday night, Bell was treated rudely by the Jays' offense, giving up three in the first inning and three in the second.

Bell got two outs in the second before Randy Ruiz's three-run double ended his day.

The pitch Ruiz lifted over first down the right-field line wasn't a bad fastball, down and on the inner half. However, Bell's overall command wasn't close to what it had been against the Rays and Indians.

"Leaving the ball up and getting behind in counts -- the two things I talked about [after beating Cleveland on Tuesday with 5 1/3 innings] -- is exactly what I did today," Bell said. "I wasn't locating the fastball in today."

The Angels (74-48) weren't as efficient as usual offensively. They produced 12 hits -- three by Vladimir Guerrero, two each by Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu -- but didn't sustain rallies.

Lefty Ricky Romero, moving to 11-5, held the Angels scoreless through five innings, gave up two runs in the sixth and entrusted the final three innings to the bullpen.

"The Angels made it tough on me all day," said Romero, a Los Angeles native who attended Cal State Fullerton, about 10 minutes from Angel Stadium. "From the No. 1 hitter to the ninth hitter, they're pretty tough."

Bell, 22, has jumped from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake to the big time, working 152 innings in the process. That's a lot of ground to cover for a guy who hadn't pitched beyond Class A in his first four professional seasons.

"My arm feels good, my legs feel strong," Bell (1-1) said. "I haven't even thought about it at all."

Scioscia will weigh that and other factors in the days ahead.

"We'll evaluate where we are," the manager said. "This was the first start Trevor was not in sync and didn't make pitches he wanted to. His stuff plays well when he gets it in decent zones.

"There's a challenge when you're trying to put two young guys in your rotation. One thing you've seen is the makeup. They don't get flustered out there. We have confidence in their ability. You have to execute, and when they have, they've been successful. When they haven't, they've struggled. It's part of any pitcher's development."

New arrival Rafael Rodriguez got the last out of the second but served up a leadoff homer to Travis Snider in the third, and three straight two-out singles by the Blue Jays (57-65) produced another run in the fifth.

Rodriguez, Shane Loux and Jason Bulger provided solid relief, but the damage had been done.

In the sixth, singles by Guerrero, Rivera and Morales, whose RBI was his 83rd, had the Angels on the scoreboard, and Erick Aybar added an RBI single.

Singles by Abreu, Guerrero and Rivera (RBI No. 72) against Josh Roenicke made it 8-3 in the seventh. Lefty Jesse Carlson struck out the side in the eighth around a Chone Figgins double.

The Angels, who were only 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, are leading the Majors with their .308 average in those situations and are at .356 in their past 38 games.

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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