Slumping Los Angeles Angels return home to face Baltimore Orioles

Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols and Martin Maldonado take batting practice before the game against the New York Yankees on Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. Photo by Lori Shepler/UPI | License Photo

By Dan Arritt, The Sports Xchange – UPI

The Los Angeles Angels need to play better at home if they expect to stay in the American League West race much longer.

The Angels have lost four in a row at Angel Stadium and eight of their past nine heading into their series opener against the visiting Baltimore Orioleson Tuesday night.

“We’re going to be fine,” manager Mike Scioscia said after a 2-1 loss to the visiting New York Yankees on Sunday. “We have a lot of confidence in these guys. We’ll get it going.”

The Angels (16-12) began the season with their best 16-game start in franchise history at 13-3 but hit a brick wall after returning home to start a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on April 17.

Los Angeles lost that game 10-1, then proceeded to drop their next three at home by one-sided scores of 9-0, 8-2, and 8-1.

The Angels went on the road the following week and took two of three from the defending World Series champion Houston Astros but returned home to get swept by the Yankees.

“You can’t panic over what’s happening,” Angels infielder Zack Cozart told the Orange County Register. “We just haven’t put together a lot of innings where you get a lot of stuff going and have a lot of opportunities to put a crooked number on the board. It just hasn’t happened in the past week or how long. We’ve also faced some really good pitching.”

Los Angeles hopes to take advantage of the struggling Orioles (8-20) and particularly Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb, the scheduled starter on Tuesday.

Cobb (0-3, 13.11 ERA) signed a four-year, $57 million deal with the Orioles during the final week of spring training after spending the past six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, but he hasn’t escaped the fifth inning in any of his three starts and has given up at least five earned runs in all three.

“This is tough, but got to find a way to get it going and get it going quick,” Cobb told the Baltimore Sun after his latest outing, an 8-4 loss to the visiting Rays on Wednesday. “I know I will. It’s hard to see from the outside because nobody knows me and nobody has really seen me go through struggles in the past, but I know when I have the ball what I can do with it. Just a matter of getting there.”

Cobb is 2-2 in his career against the Angels with a 5.35 ERA.

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are each 7-for-12 in their careers against Cobb. Trout has two home runs against Cobb and Pujols has one. Pujols is four hits shy of becoming the fourth major leaguer with at least 3,000 hits and 600 home runs.

The Angels were expected to start Japanese rookie two-way player Shohei Ohtani on the mound Tuesday, but he sprained his left ankle while stepping on first base Friday night against the Yankees and hasn’t played since.

Nick Tropeano (1-2, 4.67 ERA) will get the start instead, and the 27-year-old right-hander is looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses to the Red Sox and Astros.

Tropeano made his only appearance against the Orioles on July 9, 2016, allowing one run and five hits in six innings. He left with the Angels winning 2-1, but the bullpen faltered and the Orioles won 3-2.

Tropeano left his next start with elbow soreness and underwent Tommy Johnsurgery soon after, causing him to miss all of last season.