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Iannetta launches second homer of the season

NEW YORK -- Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter stood in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, watching as teammates hustled to catch their red-eye flights back to the West Coast and staring at a scenario he could've never imagined going into this much-hyped season: Three wins, six losses through the first nine games for his Angels.

Surprisingly, that trademark smile never left him.

"I think everybody's surprised," Hunter said. "... But I think guys have been around, they've seen this before. I definitely think we're going to get out of this little funk."

The Angels dropped two of three in each of the first three series of the season. The latest came via an 11-5 thumping at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, when Jerome Williams gave up five runs in a 2 2/3-inning outing, a reeling bullpen dug an even deeper hole and the bats failed to make up the difference.

The Angels, who have now dropped five of their last 20 games in the Bronx, are already 4 1/2 games back of the Rangers in the American League West -- granted, with less than six percent of the season complete.

"I guess if we were playing a 10-game season, we'd be in trouble," said second baseman Howie Kendrick, who fell a homer short of the cycle.

"Say what you're going to say," Hunter added, "but after another week, see what happens."

The Angels now return home for a seven-game series against the Athletics and Orioles.

Six of their first eight games came during the day, and each of their first three series began with a team's home opener, and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it. They say April -- a month when the slate is clean and every team believes -- is baseball's toughest month to predict.

The Angels' start falls right in line with that.

"We're going to make some adjustments," said Hunter, who struck out in his first three plate appearances as the cleanup hitter. "When we get some normalcy going on in the clubhouse, on the team, on the road, at home, no Opening Days, we're going to get back on track."

The biggest surprise of all, perhaps, is how the starting rotation has fared as a whole. Factoring Williams' outing -- which saw him give up five hits and three walks, while needing 47 pitches to record eight outs -- the Angels' staff has a 5.23 ERA on the year and has received just two quality starts since Jered Weaver's on Opening Day.

Both of those came from newcomer C.J. Wilson, and both were the only wins they've received in that stretch.

"That will turn," Angels manager Mike Scioscia insisted, "and that will turn in our favor, and that's going to be important for us to lay a foundation where we can start to keep the game on our own terms."

Considering the circumstances heading in -- first appearance at Yankee Stadium, on Jackie Robinson Day and in the presence of the ESPN cameras he doesn't like pitching in front of -- Williams admitted to feeling some nerves in the days leading up to his first start of the season.

After a 1-2-3 first inning, his fears began to materialize.

The Yankees got on the board on an RBI single by Raul Ibanez in the second, then chased Williams with a four-run third inning -- one in which he gave up two walks, two doubles, a single, an RBI flyout and an RBI groundout.

"The first inning was fine," said Williams, who was making his first Major League start in April since 2007. "The next two were just weird. I couldn't find the strike zone, I wasn't getting ahead in counts, and it just kept on rolling."

And so did the Yankees, with Derek Jeter hitting a three-run homer off Hisanori Takahashi in the fourth to make it an 8-1 game. The Angels slowly climbed back, using a solo homer by Mark Trumbo in the second, a two-run shot by Chris Iannetta in the fifth and an RBI double by Maicer Izturis in the sixth.

Albert Pujols -- homerless through his first nine games, which establishes a career high -- made it a three-run game with an RBI single in the seventh. But the Angels failed to score despite having runners on first and second with none out, and the Yankees pulled away for good in the bottom half -- on an RBI single by Nick Swisher, and a towering two-run homer by Raul Ibanez off Jason Isringhausen.

"Everybody has to be doing their part, as a team," Kendrick said. "That's why we have nine guys out there. You have to go out, and when you have runners in scoring position, you have to get the job done, especially with less than two outs. That's something that you saw from the Yankees tonight. I think they did a good job when they had runners in scoring position. They executed, got the guys in. I think that's something that we've got to do also, to win games." Comments