ANAHEIM, Calif. — If nothing else, the Los Angeles Angels have been consistent — as in consistently bad. And it starts with the pitching.
An 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday left the Angels with an 11-20 record, matching the worst start in the franchise’s 53-year history. They have lost seven of nine and are a season-worst nine games behind first-place Texas in the AL West despite a payroll that swelled to $142 million after the offseason addition of 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton — who is batting a paltry .208.
The team ERA is 4.78. One starter has more than two wins through the first six turns through the rotation — lefty C.J. Wilson. The staff is obviously hurting without ace Jered Weaver, who is scheduled to start throwing from a mound this week after being sidelined since April 8 because of a broken bone in his non-pitching arm. But his absence doesn’t excuse an overworked bullpen that owns a 4.65 ERA and has issued a major league-worst 55 walks.
“We have to do a much better job making pitches, getting hitters out and controlling the defensive side of this game,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve been terrible at that. We’ve been absolutely awful at controlling the defensive side — not so much the guys on the field, as much as setting a tone on the mound.”
The Angels’ only victory in this four-game series came Friday night, when Jason Vargas won 4-0 with a three-hitter for his first win in six tries with his new club.
“When we pitch well, we show that we can get the game on our terms,” Scioscia said. “It’s tough to just pin it on one group, but there’s an absolute here that’s happening — and that is that we have to pitch better.”
Jerome Williams (1-1) gave up two-run homers to J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado in his first start of the season. The right-hander threw 93 pitches in 4 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and four hits while striking out six and walking three.
Williams, who made eight appearances out of the bullpen with a 1.69 ERA, was coming off a six-inning stint last Monday at Oakland in which he allowed an unearned run from the 10th through the 15th before the Angels lost 10-8 in 19 innings. Garrett Richards was bumped from the rotation after going 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA in four starts with Weaver on the shelf.
“Two homers and three walks, that’s basically it,” Williams said. “Those three walks, I was around the zone. It wasn’t an issue about command, It was about executing pitches.”
Williams gave up an RBI double with two outs in the first by Adam Jones after a leadoff double by Nate McLouth.
The Angels responded in the bottom half with two-out RBI singles by Alberto Callaspo, Howie Kendrick and Hank Conger. Jason Hammel (5-1) ended his 38-pitch inning by striking out J.B. Shuck with the bases loaded.
Shuck came up again with the bases loaded in the third and flied out. The Orioles tied it 3-all in the fourth with a leadoff walk to Jones and a home run to left-center by Hardy — his fifth of the season and second in two days after a 14-game drought.
Trout regained the lead for the Angels in the bottom half with his fifth home run, driving a 2-2 pitch out onto the rock pile in left-center. But the Orioles pulled ahead 5-4 in the fifth when McLouth walked and Machado followed with a homer into the second tier of the double-decker bullpen in left, where his teammates welcomed the souvenir.
“We had a couple leads today that we couldn’t hold,” Scioscia said. “You’re going to find yourself trying to come back against tough bullpens. Early in the game we got some hits with runners in scoring position, which got us to a great point, and later we couldn’t get that key hit. We pressured them and gave them our best shot.”
The Orioles ended their West Coast trip the way it began — with back-to-back wins. They went 7-4 on their longest road swing of the season and have won five of their last six series.
“Anytime you go to the West Coast for 12 days and you can walk out of there with even a .500 mark, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. But to come away with seven wins out of 11, that’s pretty impressive,” Hammel said.
Hammel allowed four runs and nine hits through six innings, helping the Orioles tie the New York Yankees for second place in the AL East. The right-hander came in 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA in three previous starts against the Angels.
Hammel’s biggest pitch of the game was his 107th and final one, when he slipped a called third strike past Trout to strand Erick Aybar at second base and preserve a 5-4 lead. Hammel, who struck out five, is 5-0 with a 3.41 ERA in five road starts.
Former Angels reliever Darren O’Day got four outs for his first save since Sept. 8, 2009, with Texas. He retired Trout on a grounder with two runners in scoring position on a slider away in the eighth.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who has converted a career-best 32 consecutive save opportunities, was up and ready in the ninth just in case.
“Jim better watch out. I’m coming for his job,” joked O’Day, who has three saves in the big leagues. “That team over there is very talented. So for us to take three of four here is huge.”
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a knee problem. He was 1 for 4 with an RBI single in Baltimore’s three-run eighth. Ryan Flaherty drove in the final two runs with a bases-loaded single against Richards.
NOTES: The Angels stranded 11 runners. ... After homering in five of his previous six games, Mark Trumbo was back in the cleanup spot and started at 1B while No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols sat out for the first time this season. The Angels are 0-9 when Trumbo starts as the DH.