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Originally published Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 5:17 PM

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Pitching issues leave Angels in an early hole

Want to know how the Angels have gotten off to a start equaling the franchise's worst ever, back in 1961, their first season as an expansion...

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Want to know how the Angels have gotten off to a start equaling the franchise's worst ever, back in 1961, their first season as an expansion team?

Well, the .200 average by their $125 million acquisition, Josh Hamilton, doesn't help. But put the blame on the pitching.

Before a strong effort Friday by Tommy Hanson in a win over the Tigers, the Angels' three new starters — Hanson, former Mariner Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton — were 1-6 with a 7.36 earned-run average. The 6.07 ERA of the rotation was the worst in the majors.

Even with Hanson's six shutout innings, Angels starters have failed to get an out in the seventh inning in 14 of their first 15 games, with just five quality starts (the Mariners had nine through Friday).

"The occasional bad start, the occasional game you have to come back from, is one thing, but we've had to come back in virtually every game except one or two," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters.

There is increasing speculation that Scioscia's job could be on the line if the Angels don't straighten things out.

Nationals 3B deals

with throwing woes

An interesting situation is developing with the Nationals, where Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has suddenly developed issues throwing to first base.

It's not comparable to players like Mackey Sasser, Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch, but he had four throwing errors in the span of five games. Other errant throws were snared by first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Zimmerman has a surgically repaired shoulder but admitted it was a mental hurdle, not something physical.

"Nope, shoulder feels great," he told reporters. "That's why it's so frustrating. I was just going into the dugout and talking to some of the guys. Nobody's more frustrated than me. I'm the guy out there that doesn't want to do it more than anyone."

Unlike the players mentioned, Zimmerman still makes a majority of good throws, and his bad ones aren't way off target. And on difficult off-balance throws, he's mostly right on the mark.

"That's the frustrating part, too," he said. "I'll have a couple games in a row where I do fine and it feels great, then all of a sudden I just kind of let one go."

Notes and quotes

Justin Upton reached eight homers in a season faster than any Brave in history, which is saying something for a franchise that claims Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Chipper Jones, among others.

Upton hit his eighth homer on Tuesday in the Braves' 13th game. Three others did it in 16 team games: Mathews (1959), Jones (1998) and Andruw Jones (2006).

Upton, by the way, didn't hit his eighth homer last year with Arizona until July 20, in his 87th game.

Kyle Blanks was called up from Class AAA to replace Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, suspended eight games for charging the mound on Zack Greinke.

Wouldn't you know it, Blanks was hit by pitches three times in the Padres' final two games against Greinke's Dodgers.

• Speaking of Greinke, he feels bad that he didn't warn his catcher, A.J. Ellis, of his history with Quentin. Ellis was unprepared and thus unable to restrain Quentin before he made contact with the pitcher and fractured his left clavicle. Ellis has said he feels guilty he didn't move more quickly.

"Looking back on it, I probably should have warned him, because I know he would feel a lot better about it," Greinke told reporters.

• The crack in his surgically repaired left ankle means Derek Jeter is out until at least mid-July. It also means he won't be playing in Seattle this year, unless it's in the postseason. The Yankees' only series at Safeco Field is June 6-9.

• Great quote from former major-leaguer Tony Clark (via the New York Post) on what it was like facing Mariano Rivera: "If I had a bat that was pretty hot and doing pretty well, I did not take it to the plate against Mariano. I did not want him to break it."

• One big reason the Orioles made the playoffs last year was their 16-2 record in extra-inning games — including 16 in a row after dropping their first two.

The streak started last year with a 10th-inning grand slam by Matt Wieters against the White Sox on April 16. A year later, on Thursday, the Orioles played their first extra-inning game — and won it on a walk-off grand slam by Wieters.

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