Relief woes lead to relapses

TAYLOR WARD is having a breakout season for the Angels, batting .359 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs. But the Halos’ relief pitchers are struggling (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

As the Los Angeles Angels continue their streak their streaky spring, one element seems clear. Despite their impressive offensive might, the bullpen is performing, well, offensively.

In the Halos’ fifth straight loss on Sunday, the relief corps twice was unable to hold a lead, and the result was an 11-10 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“We’ve had several games over the last seven to 10 days where we should’ve put them away and we haven’t,” Angels’ manager Joe Maddon said.

In most games, 10 runs ought to be enough to win; a three-run lead in the late innings looks like a respectable cushion. The Angels are the second-best hitting team in MLB with an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) at .748.

But take a look at the pitching records of the Angels. Overall, the team is 11th. But “top” relievers are struggling. Raisel Iglesias is 1-3, Aaron Loup is 0-2 and Jose Suarez is 0-2. Their ERA’s are – respectively – 3.71, 4.82 and 6.11.

Frankly, it’s tougher to get a lights-out late reliever than it is a slugger because they’re so valuable, as we’ve seen. Maybe we can see if Troy Percival is willing to try a comeback.

Dodgers’ golden age continues

Some day, in the far-distant future, perhaps, the Blue Crew will have a losing season and not be in the World Series conversation. But if that dark day happens, fans will have many great years to look back on, and this season looks like another.

The team has the best record in Major League Baseball at 33-14. The offense is best (OPS at .766) and the pitching is, too, with a team ERA of 2.67. Other teams are batting .216 against them, barely above the Mendoza line.

Free agents come and go and that usually works to the Dodgers’ advantage. They have the richest team in baseball, a winning tradition and a climate close to being the best in the nation. The fan base is deep and loyal and the management is sane.

Achievement is routine and drama is – for the time being – rare. The weather’s always good for these guys.

That would be a tough room

There’s been some speculation that – down the road – Major League Baseball may scrap its traditional National-American leagues divide and rearrange the teams based on a strictly geographical basis.

We don’t like that idea; part of the appeal of big league baseball is its rich traditions and past stretching back to 1876 with founding of the NL.

But if it did, a Pacific Division of five teams would be the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A’s and Padres. If that were in place today the Dodgers would (of course) be on top with a .702 winning percentage, followed by the Padres (.638), Angels (.551), Giants (.543) and A’s (20-30).

So, four of five teams have winning records and are contending for a division title or even a wild card spot. Have to admit, it’s food for thought.

The endless playoffs continue

For many high schools in the state, the school year is over. Diplomas have been handed out. But the California Interscholastic Federation hasn’t gotten the memo.

The regional baseball playoffs will start on Tuesday with Round 1, followed by the regional semifinals on June 2 and the regional final on June 4. The state championship games will follow.

As for The Tribune’s coverage area, Huntington Beach (22-9) is seeded sixth in Division I. The Oilers will host La Costa Canyon (24-10) of Carlsbad.

Other Orange County teams in the regionals are Newport Harbor in Division III, Fullerton in Division IV and Anaheim in Division V.

FINAL OUT: “He only got two hits tonight,” said Dodger manager Dave Roberts about Mookie Betts after Saturday’s win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Kind of a slow night for Mookie.”

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica with wire service reports.


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