Semi-demoted Angels closer Ernesto Frieri: ‘I’m gonna die standing up like a warrior.’

Ernesto Frieri

Ernesto Frieri is 0-3 with a 4.20 earned-run average this season. (Getty Images)

Ernesto Frieri was brimming with strong emotions Thursday.

The Angels’ closer was sitting at his locker for the first time since blowing saves on consecutive nights Monday and Tuesday in Texas, a series of events that clearly hit the 28-year-old pitcher hard.

On Monday he allowed a pair of solo home runs in the ninth inning, turning a 3-2 Angels lead into a 4-3 loss. On Tuesday he allowed a walk, stolen base and RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning with the Angels ahead 11-10. Frieri was pulled from that game, which the Angels lost 14-11 in the 10th inning.

Frieri never got a chance to atone for his mistakes on Wednesday. Michael Kohn pitched the ninth inning and served up the game-winning home run in a 1-1 game — the Angels’ third consecutive walk-off loss.

“Just keep fighting,” said Frieri, whose earned-run average rose to 4.20 in Texas. “It’s gonna pass sooner or later.”
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Ernesto Frieri on Mariano Rivera: ‘I can’t compare to that guy.’

Ernesto FrieriErnesto Frieri, who turned 28 Friday, has 45 saves and 278 strikeouts since he made his pro debut with the San Diego Padres in 2009.

That’s 874 fewer strikeouts and 593 less saves than this year’s All-Star game MVP, Mariano Rivera.

Rivera pitched the eighth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star game, retiring the first three batters he faced. Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan pitched the ninth inning to earn the save.
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Daily Distractions: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols juxtaposed; rekindling Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols’ running can be painful to watch; lately his batting average has been suffering too. (Associated Press photo)

A visiting beat writer at Sunday’s game watched one of Albert Pujols‘ three strikeouts and marveled at what he saw. The swing-and-miss at strike three, down and away, simply wasn’t the same Pujols. In fact, it looked a little like Josh Hamilton did earlier this month.

Hamilton seems to be coming around, as I wrote in my game story yesterday. Pujols, who is batting .198 since April 21, does not.

Writes Joe Posnanski: “After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.”

Mike Scioscia said something interesting after the game. I asked him if the Angels’ patience at the plate (they walked twice with the bases loaded and Hamilton averaged five pitches per at-bat) was evidence of a team that isn’t pressing as much, something Scioscia reprimanded his team for a couple nights earlier. His answer:

“I think we’re seeing some guys maybe use the whole field. As you try to get simpler, get more comfortable in the game, the things you talk about show up — you see the guys get in deeper counts, get a pitch, take a walk, hit the ball the other way, get better pitches to hit. Those things start to go in a positive direction. Hopefully he’ll keep taking strides toward it.”

Wait, who’s “he”?

I didn’t ask that because I didn’t catch Scioscia’s choice of pronouns until I listened to my tape after the game. But it isn’t hard to figure out — it’s Hamilton, who was hitting line drives to the opposite field, taking a walk, and going deeper into counts as if he was Mike Trout. Pujols was not.

For Pujols’ legacy, sure, we’re witnessing a turning point. As a key to the Angels’ success, it remains to be seen how long they can survive Pujols’ slump.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:

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