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OC Register: Angels feel sting of recent losses to losing opponents

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ANAHEIM – A loss is a loss, but some are tougher to take, Angels Manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday before his ballclub took the field to try to avoid a three-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates at Angel Stadium.

The Angels came out of the All-Star break hot, going 9-3 to climb to a season-high five games over .500. They’ve cooled significantly since, falling five games below .500 with Tuesday’s loss.

Adding to the ignominy of the slide, nine the Angels’ last 14 losses have come against teams with losing records.

“Yeah, its frustrating, that’s very true,” Ausmus said. “A lot of times you look at the beginning of the season and you think, ‘If we beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, then we’ll be fine.’ That being said, we don’t have the personnel that we thought we had when the season started.

“It happened to us last homestand, too; (last-place clubs) Baltimore and Detroit rolled in and we won two of the seven games, so that was extremely frustrating. Pittsburgh (50-69 entering Wednesday) obviously has a better record than those two teams, so we’re not happy losing any game, but that’s even more tough to swallow.”

Third baseman David Fletcher, who did his part to help the cause Tuesday with four hits, a walk and and three runs scored, said the Angels haven’t been looking past opponents, they’ve just been struggling.

“I don’t think there’s any letdown,” he said. “Every game we go out there and try to win, doesn’t matter who we’re playing against.

“Obviously, we haven’t been playing well the last week or two. But I don’t know if it has to do with losing to a bad team. Every team’s got good players, I guess just the fact that the last week and a half, two weeks, we haven’t been playing well.”

RAMIREZ’S SUSPENSION KICKS IN

Noé Ramírez is back, except he isn’t.

After being sidelined with a viral infection, the right-handed pitcher was activated Wednesday from the injured list after coming through a simulated game without issue Tuesday. But being activated triggered Ramírez’s three-game suspension for hitting Jake Marisnick with a pitch on July 16.

To create space for him, the club optioned right-hander Jake Jewell to Salt Lake.

The Angels will have to play with 24 players for the next three games, which won’t necessarily do any favors to Ausmus’ struggling ballclub.

“It boils down to how it goes with our starters,” Ausmus said. “The bullpen becomes even more critical.”

Ramírez said the league was “stern” regarding his appeal, which he dropped after it was made clear he wouldn’t be allowed to reduce the number of games he was suspended, though he was able to diminish his fine some.

PUJOLS PLAYS FOUR

Ausmus inserted veteran slugger Albert Pujols into the Angels’ lineup for the fourth consecutive game Wednesday, a relatively rare stretch this season, when Ausmus typically has paced Pujols by limiting his consecutive starts to three.

“I think the days off have helped him keep on the field and off the injury list,” Ausmus said. “But I also openly admit that his workout regimen is extremely strict and he follows it, and that’s a huge part as well.”

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