NEW YORK — It has been overshadowed by Josh Hamilton's season-long slump, Albert Pujols' foot injury and the ongoing struggles of the back of the rotation and the entire bullpen, but it's impossible to overlook:
Mark Trumbo is in another second-half slide.
The Angels slugger was hitless in four at-bats Monday night, including a bases-loaded strikeout with one out in the ninth inning of the team's 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees. He is batting .121 (seven for 58) in his last 14 games, his average falling from .252 on July 28 to .235.
Trumbo's misery had plenty of company. Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda shut out the Angels and gave up only three hits in eight innings, and after Trumbo whiffed on a low-and-away slider, Chris Nelson swung at a full-count, chest-high fastball from David Robertson to end the game.
Right-hander Garrett Richards was superb, giving up two runs and seven hits in eight innings to improve his earned-run average to 2.42 in four starts since moving to the rotation in late July, but that couldn't prevent the Angels from falling a season-high 15 games back in the American League West.
There was also a flip side to Richards' success: Struggling right-hander Tommy Hanson, who hasn't pitched regularly in the minor leagues since 2009, was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake after the game to clear a spot for Jason Vargas, who will return to the rotation Tuesday night.
"It's not tough," said Hanson, who was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in four starts since returning from a forearm strain in July. "I just have to work, to get better with my command, getting guys out, not giving up runs."
Hanson (4-3, 5.59) looked dominant in his first game off the disabled list against Minnesota on July 23, giving up one run and four hits in 51/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none, his fastball hitting 93 mph.
But he gave up 14 earned runs and walked 11 in 142/3 innings of his next three starts and has had trouble holding runners all season — opponents were successful on 20 of 24 stolen-base attempts against him.
"This is the best thing for Tommy and for us right now; he definitely needs to figure some things out," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he came back against Minnesota, he was sensational the whole game. It seems like his stuff has eroded a bit in his last couple of starts, and he feels out of sync."
That's how Trumbo feels at the plate. He has a team-high 129 strikeouts and looked out of whack in his last at-bat Monday night.
"I can't get anything going," Trumbo said. "I haven't had any sustained hot streaks, and you need some of those. It's tough to explain."
To Trumbo's credit, he leads the team with 25 home runs and is tied with Mike Trout for the team lead with 73 runs batted in.
"The bottom line is production, and I think Mark has been very productive with the balls he's driven and his RBIs," Scioscia said. "He's not going to be graded on batting average or on-base percentage as much as his power and production."
Trumbo knows that with his long swing, which makes him susceptible to dry spells, that he'll never be a .300 hitter, but he has maintained a good average for long stretches.
He hit .306 with 22 home runs and 57 RBIs in the first half of 2012 before slumping to .227 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in the second half. Trumbo hit .300 this April and had a.271 average June 2 before he began to slide.
"You want to be realistic, and hitting .300 is not something I've proven I can do," Trumbo said. "But I would like to improve in a number of categories. For this team to be at a level we need to be at, I need to be a consistent producer."
Trout supports lifetime bans for PED users
Trout told a New York radio station that first-time offenders of baseball's performance-enhancing drug program should be banned for life.
"To me, personally, I think you should be out of the game if you get caught," Trout told WFAN at the Empire State Building, where his former New Jersey high school team was dedicating a field in his honor. "It takes away from the guys that are working hard every day and doing it all-natural."
That one of the game's brightest young stars spoke out against cheaters on a day Alex Rodriguez hit cleanup for the Yankees while appealing a 211-game suspension can only fortify baseball's effort to rid the game of PEDs.
"Some people just are trying to find that extra edge," Trout said. "It's good that MLB caught them."
Asked Monday afternoon to elaborate, Trout deferred to pitcher C.J. Wilson, the team's union representative.
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Trout said.