The month of August has not been kind to the Los Angeles Angels.

Heading into their weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles, the Angels are 10-12 for the month and losers of seven of their last 10 games.

Traditionally, August is the “make or break” month for teams who are still in contention for the postseason.

After the July 31 trade deadline, where contending teams look to bolster their rosters in order to improve their playoff chances, those same teams use August as the month to make their push and decide their fate.

After starting the month 6-4 and sweeping the Kansas City Royals in a three-game series, the Angels have since gone 4-8, failing to win any series and falling further back in the AL West standings to the division-leading Texas Rangers.

While a number of factors have contributed to their dismal month thus far, one that clearly sticks out is their bullpen.

With the fourth worst bullpen ERA in the American League at 4.29, Angels relievers have struggled. RP Francisco Rodriguez failed on two occasions to hold leads in the Orioles’ sweep of the Angels in early August, and normally reliable Kevin Jepsen failed to hold a lead in Boston on August 18.

In the early to mid 2000s, the Angels bullpen was the cream of the crop in the American League, with the best ERA out of the bullpen from 2002-04. Manager Mike Scioscia was masterful in pulling the right strings to protect late-inning leads and had the talent to pull it off.

Those days are apparently gone, as evidenced by the team’s current struggles.

Another major culprit has been the bottom of the Angels’ batting order. Combined, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup are hitting a paltry .211 for the season, a full .033 below the league average.

While these spots in the batting order in the American League are typically reserved for players less adept at the plate, fairly automatic outs are certainly not what the Angels had in mind for players manning these slots in the batting order.

For the Angels to have any hope of postseason glory in 2010, these two important aspects of their game must improve dramatically. If recent performance is used as an indicator, their hopes will turn into despair.

You can follow Doug on Twitter @desertdesperado.

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