8/8/2014 9:45 P.M. ET
Scioscia: Slumping offense just 'cyclical' part of game
By Matthew DeFranks / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' second-half offensive woes continued Thursday night, when a 7-0 blanking by the Dodgers left the Halos with just two runs in their past 24 innings.
Since the All-Star break, the Angels -- who still rank second in the Majors with 543 runs -- have hit just .226, the second-worst mark in the American League. The shutout was the third of the season for the Halos, who have scored just 3.25 runs per game in the second half.
Manager Mike Scioscia said the offense would return and that the slump was simply a "cyclical" part of baseball.
But the Angels haven't gotten any help from the opposing starters.
In 20 games since the All-Star break, the Angels have faced five former Cy Young Award winners and just two pitchers with a 2014 record under .500. On the season, the 18 different starters (the Angels faced Bud Norris and Chris Tillman twice in the stretch) have combined for a 3.36 ERA prior to Friday's games and own a 1.196 WHIP.
The Major League averages for ERA and WHIP are 3.78 and 1.285, respectively.
Only five Major League teams have a team ERA below 3.36, and the Angels have faced two of them (the Mariners and Dodgers) since the break.
The Angels hit .269 before the All-Star break but have a .337 slugging percentage and .239 average with runners in scoring position since.
Lack of curveball command hurting Wilson
ANAHEIM -- In the sixth inning of Thursday's loss to the Dodgers, manager Mike Scioscia made the long, slow walk to the mound to remove starter C.J. Wilson.
The trip had become a familiar one for Scioscia, who has yanked Wilson short of six innings in each of the left-hander's last six starts. Wilson was receiving the hook, and maybe because he hadn't found his.
Wilson is in the midst of perhaps the toughest stretch of his career (11.03 ERA since June 24) and struggled with his command Thursday night, when he threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs while walking four, hitting a batter, throwing a wild pitch and throwing just 54 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
After the game, Wilson said he didn't have his curveball, one of his most-used secondary pitches.
"The curveball, when I needed it for a strike," Wilson said, "it wasn't there. It had good sharpness to it but it was short."
Wilson threw his curveball six times Thursday -- all six were balls, including three in the dirt.
"He was 0-for-I don't know how many curveballs he threw," Scioscia said. "He didn't have the feel for it. … His curveball is important to what he needs to do, and he didn't have it last night."
The 33-year-old has thrown his curveball more this season (nearly 20 percent of all pitches) than any other season as a starter (13 percent in 2012 and 14 percent in '13) but with less success.
Hitters are hitting .321 off Wilson's hook (a big jump from .211 last season and .155 in '12) and own a .756 OPS, 11.0 weighted runs created (wRC) and 124 wRC+ against the curveball, easily the highest marks since Wilson became a starter in 2010.
Scioscia said Wilson's curveball hasn't been there for Wilson recently but that you could not pin the downswing solely on the pitch.
"Yesterday, I think his fastball command was a little bit crisper, but his secondary pitches weren't quite as [good]," Scioscia said. "He's got really good secondary pitches, and he just never got to bring them into the game like he can."
Halos getting by without left-handed reliever
ANAHEIM -- When you look at the Angels' daily lineup card, one part jumps out -- the bullpen. The right side lists seven players; the left, zero.
With Joe Thatcher going to the disabled list Sunday with a sprained right ankle, the Angels have been without a left-hander in the bullpen for the first time since the end of June. Thatcher was out of the walking boot Thursday, but he isn't expected back until late August.
Can the Halos survive without a matchup lefty in the bullpen? Manager Mike Scioscia's answer was simple: "Sure."
"I think it can be done without a lefty in the 'pen," Scioscia said. "I think there are some things that having a lefty in the 'pen definitely helps you in a lot of areas, some are very subtle and some are very obvious. Whether we have one or not, it doesn't change the way we have to get after it and the way we have to play."
Scioscia said the Angels wouldn't choose relievers based on matchups as much as the situation of the game. Scioscia mentioned Joe Smith and Kevin Jepsen as his "go-to" guys against left-handed hitters.
Both Smith (.133 batting average against) and Jepsen (.145 batting average against) have dominated right-handers this season, and while their numbers against lefties are slightly worse, they are still above-average. Lefties are hitting .232 against Smith and .192 against Jepsen.
Since coming over in a trade with the D-backs, Thatcher has a 6.00 ERA and .438 batting average against in eight games.
"That component right now isn't part of our bullpen, but I think our depth and our ability to hold leads will still be there," Scioscia said.
• Scioscia said reliever Mike Morin should return next Saturday in Texas, the first day the right-hander is available to be activated off the 15-day disabled list.
Morin is out with a laceration on his left foot, obtained while walking on the beach in Florida. Morin threw on Thursday and said his foot feels about 90 percent.
• The Pirates designated former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri for assignment on Friday after the 29-year-old posted a 10.13 ERA in 14 games for Pittsburgh.
Frieri spent parts of three seasons with the Angels before being traded in June for Jason Grilli.
Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.