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MLB

The Angels Have Tried Everything And They’re Still Losing

Shohei Ohtani at bat
Look at this photograph.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The walk-up music at Wednesday night’s Angels game against the Red Sox might have been a cute gimmick if it hadn’t felt so desperate. Or if it hadn’t failed so completely.

In a bid by the coaches to “shake things up” during a 13-game losing streak, all nine members of the Angels’ batting order picked a different song by the band Nickelback to accompany them as they stepped to the plate. “I like it,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “I like Nickelback. The entire game, I’ve got songs in my head I can’t stop singing.”

The Angels were shut out.

Here’s how it started in the bottom of the first.

Ohtani struck out swinging on five pitches, and the Angels’ bats never woke up from there. Though the pitching was effective and limited Boston to just one run, L.A. couldn’t score at all, and they failed to get even so much as a hit after the sixth inning. In the end, the Angels dropped their franchise-worst 14th straight, 1-0.

“It’s a broken record,” Nevin said afterward, referring to the losses and not his copy of All The Right Reasons. “We keep saying it. The effort is good. These guys really want to win a game right now, and we know what it will mean for us when we do.”

Of course the Angels want to win a game! Of course they’re making an effort to win games. But nevertheless the team has plummeted from a 27-17 mark on May 25, one game out of first place, to 27-31 today, staring up at the wild cards. There’s not one thing you can point to as the cause of the tumble. Sometimes it’s because the pitching can’t keep a game within reach, as the team has posted an ugly 5.84 ERA since the losing began. Sometimes it’s because the bats freeze up, with their .216/.275/.319 slash line in this stretch putting them at the bottom of the MLB barrel. Sometimes it’s the bullpen, as the Halos have held leads in the seventh inning or later in six of their losses on this streak. Some of it’s a depleted roster, too, with injuries to the highly paid Anthony Rendon, early-season bright spot Taylor Ward, and most recently Mike Trout, who was slumping badly before he got hurt. Some of it’s harder to explain: Seven of these 14 losses have been by one run, which is where you just have to shake your fist at the sky and grumble.

The Angels already made the most dramatic change they could when they fired manager Joe Maddon as the losing streak hit a dozen. That hasn’t sparked any results yet, like it did for the Phillies—Philadelphia immediately swept a series after firing their manager, though to be fair, they were playing the Angels—and neither did the conspicuous makeover of their ballpark’s playlist. I guess you could say they were waiting on a different story, but this time they’re mistaken.

The good news is that it’s never been a better time to be a baseball team on a long skid. While the Halos have already pretty much erased their shot at the AL West crown, with the Astros sitting pretty at 36-21, the introduction of the third wild card in each league means that despite the last two weeks, the Angels remain just 3.5 games back of a playoff spot, with over 100 still left to play. It’s a depressing state of affairs for everyone, but a 14-game losing streak doesn’t automatically disqualify a team from achieving mediocrity, and mediocrity no longer automatically disqualifies a team from the postseason.