ST. PETERSBURG -- The Angels have experienced slow starts like this before. And both times, the team went on to make the playoffs.
In 2002, the Angels matched their slowest start in club history by losing 12 of their first 18 games, a feat the team duplicated on Wednesday after losing to the Rays. The team would go on to earn the Wild Card spot with a 99-63 record before beating the Twins and Yankees in the American League playoffs and the Giants in the World Series.
More recently, the Angels began the 2009 campaign with a 7-11 start and finished April with a 9-12 mark. By the end of May, the Angels were still only one game over .500, but they went on to win 99 games and claim the American League West title.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who is in his 13th season at the helm, fully understands how a 162-game campaign can develop. More importantly, he knows how a team works itself out of a funk.
"We had a terrific Spring Training and we thought we'd hit the ground running, but that hasn't happened," Scioscia said. "The record is not what's part of the big picture. What's part of the picture is how you play the game. I think that's where all of our focus is.
"We're not firing on all cylinders. A lot of components aren't in place where we need them to be. That's what our focus is going to be. Getting everything from getting our offense going, to starting pitching, pitcher-catcher relationship, bullpen, everything."
In 2002, the Angels received a five-hit performance by Ramon Ortiz over eight innings in a 1-0 road loss to the Mariners, a day after Scott Schoeneweis failed to make it through three innings in a 16-5 defeat to Seattle. While the Angels fell to 6-14 on the season, Ortiz had done enough to spare the bullpen and give the team some momentum.
They reeled off eight wins in a row and won 22 of their next 26 games. The Angels had a 30-21 record at the end of May and were well on their way to a successful season.
"Sometimes all it takes is a little thing to happen where a ball falls in for a hit, getting a key walk, whatever it takes to ignite a hot streak," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence in our team. There are ebbs and flows to a season. The theme I've been telling them is, 'Less is more.' It starts with good at-bats, making good contact and allow that to take over."
Scioscia said frustration has creeped in to the team's psyche, but he has reminded them to focus on the simple things, rather than a grand result. The Angels manager discussed players trying to hit the ball up the middle or make contact with runners on base instead of producing monstrous home runs and lively fastballs.
"I think there's a certain connection you have with a player, not just the offensive side, it also goes with the pitching side," Scioscia said when asked if he talks to specific players about their particular struggles. "You see some guys who pitch at 91 [mph] that try to throw at 94. Guys trying to get out of an 0-for-20 with a 420-foot home run, or a guy with someone on third base expanding the zone with two outs, just trying to do too much.
"You start with a line drive up the middle, a good at-bat. There's a level of play you have to maintain to be consistent. There's a lot of conversations you have with players about the game, but the most [important thing] is we have to make good contact and see where we are."
Interestingly enough, Scioscia pointed out how Torii Hunter has been an example of good plate discipline and approach since the start of the season.
"If you look at what Torii did early in the season where he wasn't getting too big, he was producing line-drive hits," Scioscia said. "Those are the types of things we're talking about."
Scioscia shrugs off Hunter's comments
ST. PETERSBURG -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia dismissed any tension between himself and Torii Hunter after Hunter hinted at the lack of execution following the team's 3-2 loss to the Rays on Wednesday night.
"Torii has no issue with strategies or anything," Scioscia said. "He didn't come to me about anything."
After suffering their third straight loss for the third time this season, Hunter made some comments about the Angels' state of existence.
"We're just going through the motions right now," Hunter said Wednesday. "We need to go out there and do what we're supposed to do, what we're capable of doing."
Hunter specifically mentioned key situations, including when the Angels failed to manufacture a run after putting the first two batters on in the second inning in Wednesday's game.
"You mean if we bunted in the second?" Hunter said when asked about early executions. "What can we do? All we do is play the game."
Hunter did not make himself available to speak with reporters on Thursday.
The Angels began four of the first five innings with a baserunner, but failed to produce a run after going 0-for-6 in that situation while leaving four stranded. Heading into Thursday's contest against the Rays, the Angels rank near the bottom of the American League with a .236 average with runners in scoring position (37-for-157).
"There's a level of execution that has to happen with this team, and these guys understand it," Scioscia said. "We've talked about situational hitting, getting on base and making things happen. It's important to all of us. We all see it.
"Everybody on the staff understands a need for the situational component of our game, getting runners over from second to third, being able to execute the hit and run, getting the ball on the ground, taking advantage of our team speed. We need to play at a higher level, and this team will."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.