Published April 29, 2012
CLEVELAND – The Los Angeles Angels can't even count on Torii Hunter's glove these days.
Hunter committed a costly error and the Angels managed just three hits in a 4-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the fifth, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a fly ball to right that Hunter lost in the sun. Aaron Cunningham and Michael Brantley scored to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
The Angels, one of the preseason favorites in the AL West, dropped to 7-15. As they packed to head home for a series against Minnesota that begins on Monday, Hunter shouldered the blame for the latest low point.
"I lost that game," he said.
Indians starter Derek Lowe allowed three hits in 7 2-3 innings as Los Angeles was shut out for the fourth time. The Angels wasted a strong start by Ervin Santana, who allowed two unearned runs and seven hits in seven innings.
Albert Pujols, the centerpiece of Los Angeles' offseason spending spree, went 0 for 4 to extend his career-long homerless streak to 117 at-bats. The big first baseman is homerless in 22 games since signing his $240 million contract with the Angels.
This isn't what anyone expected when the Angels reported to spring training. After landing Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson in free agency, most experts thought Los Angeles would battle Texas for the division title.
Instead, the Angels have been a bust so far. Asked what his reaction would have been if he was told two months ago that the team would be in this spot with one game to play in April, Hunter said: "I wouldn't have believed it. Nobody would have believed it. It's crazy."
Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove outfielder, hopes the Angels can fight any sense of frustration that might be setting in.
"You don't want to lose," he said. "Who wants to lose? Nobody. Everybody wants to win in anything you do. I don't think you get frustrated in baseball because failure is the game. If you get frustrated in baseball, you can go home. You've got to have amnesia because you play tomorrow."
Pujols was greeted by chants of "overrated" when he struck out against Chris Perez in the ninth. He grounded out in his first three at-bats against Lowe (4-1).
"This is the first time we've really seen him on a daily basis," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, in spring training he was swinging better. As he put it, he's not locked in right now. In his at-bats today, he expanded (the strike zone) a couple of times. He was on some pitches and just kept missing them. He hit one ball hard to shortstop."
The Indians went ahead in the fifth, when they put two runners on in an inning for the third time against Santana (0-5). With one out, Cunningham reached on an infield hit and Brantley walked.
Santana struck out Jason Kipnis and appeared about to get out of another jam when Cabrera flied to right. Hunter drifted under the ball, then shaded his eyes and ducked as it fell next to him.
"I feel bad," Hunter said. "Santana pitched his butt off."
Hunter admitted he had an unpleasant feeling as he tried to find the ball.
"I get a ball in the sun and they score two runs," he said. "It almost hit me in the head, I heard. You can't beat the sun. I've been playing this game for a long time. It seems like the sun wins. Whenever you lose a ball in the sun, you can't defeat God's light."
Hunter has the fewest errors of any outfielder in history with more than 4,500 chances. The error was only his 36th in 4,525 opportunities.
Santana made his first start against Cleveland since throwing a no-hitter at Progressive Field on July 27. The Indians quickly dashed any hopes for a repeat performance when Brantley and Kipnis led off the first inning with singles.
Santana came right back to get Cabrera to bounce a ball right back to him and the right-hander turned a double play. He then got Travis Hafner to fly out.
Santana also escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth when Shelley Duncan popped out. The right-hander is 0-7 overall since winning at Seattle on Sept. 1. His only win over Cleveland in 12 career starts against the Indians was his no-hitter. He's 1-7 overall against Cleveland.
The Indians scored twice in the eighth off Kevin Jepsen, whose throwing error on a sacrifice by Jack Hannahan made it 3-0. Duncan added a sacrifice fly.
Lowe allowed only a pair of singles by Kendrys Morales over the first 7 2-3 innings before running into trouble. He walked Maicer Izturis with two out in the eighth and left after Chris Iannetta singled to right-center.
Vinnie Pestano came on and walked rookie Mike Trout to load the bases before striking out Howie Kendrick.
NOTES: The Angels ended their road trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland with a 1-5 record. ... The Angels are 1-12 when scoring three runs or less. ... The Angels won consecutive games once, when they won two in a row April 20-21. ... Los Angeles is 3-9 on the road. ... Trout, second-youngest player in the majors to Washington OF Bryce Harper, was born in August 1991 — two months after Lowe was drafted by the Seattle Mariners.