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Offense falls on hard times

Pitching saving Angels' struggling O

ANAHEIM -- No offense, but whatever happened to that Angels juggernaut that steamrolled through June, July and August averaging 5.7, 7.1 and 6.2 runs per game, respectively?

If you have any leads on its whereabouts, kindly let Mike Scioscia know.

"It's been a struggle to get most of these guys to swing to their capabilities this month," Scioscia said before Saturday night's game against the A's at Angel Stadium, coming off a 3-0 setback on Friday that ran the losing streak to three games. "We've done a lot of different things -- backed off, pushed with extra work.

"We'll keep going until we find that chemistry."

Producing three runs or less in 15 of 23 games and averaging 3.6 runs per contest, the Angels began September at 12-11 after kicking into high gear in June (17-9), July (19-7) and August (17-12).

Scioscia is pleased with the way his pitching staff has performed with its MLB-best 2.68 ERA this month, but the offense has been quiet and even the defense, so good for so long, has been spotty.

"We've been underachieving on a consistent basis," Scioscia said. "We have not played well. We have a lot of confidence in what our team can do. We've got to grind it out pitch by pitch, game by game."

While the offense was racking up runs in bunches from June through August, the pitching staff, riddled with injuries early, was erratic. Only Jered Weaver hasn't missed a turn in the rotation, and a bullpen missing Scot Shields (knee surgery, out for the season) was overworked for long stretches and took its lumps.

With the acquisition of Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay and the return to form of John Lackey, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana in support of Weaver, the Angels have what Scioscia has called the best and deepest rotation in his 10 years at the helm.

The bullpen has been solid of late with Matt Palmer, Jose Arredondo, Jason Bulger, Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen in front of closer Brian Fuentes.

Now the challenge is finding the missing offense to parlay with the high-level pitching.

"If we had matched some of our offense with pitching early on," Scioscia said, "and right now our hitting to match our pitching, right now you might be looking at 110 wins on the board."

The Angels took 90 wins into Saturday's game, trailing the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers.

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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