Focus in Angels' dugout is to dig out

Angels drop six back in West after 6-5 loss to Astros on Saturday night

This isn't about urgency.

It's about traction, and the Angels hit the skids again Saturday night.

A 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium will not result in a rush to the panic button. This is May, as Manager Mike Scioscia pointed out. But the Angels are dealing with a basic principle.

The deeper the hole, the higher the climb.

The loss left the Angels six games behind the first-place Astros in the American League West.

"Whether we stay close, drop behind, our focus has to be on going out and winning a game, whether we're five games up or five games behind," Scioscia said.

The Angels have had a hard time staying on task. This was their sixth loss in the last nine games.

"We're coming along better than we were," center fielder Mike Trout said. "We have been hitting balls hard, just right at people."

The Astros hit balls hard at people Saturday . . . people in the stands.

Angels starter Matt Shoemaker gave up home runs in each of the first three innings, to Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Colby Rasmus. Shoemaker has surrendered 10 home runs this season, the most among American League pitchers.

Three innings of handing out souvenir baseballs gave the Astros a 6-2 lead. The Angels spent the rest of the game chasing, eventually cutting the deficit to 6-5 on Kole Calhoun's run-scoring double in the ninth. But when Albert Pujols grounded out with two on, the Angels were left another game back in the standings.

"All you can control is the game and try and get some wins," Pujols said. "That's the best thing we can do now. It's been a rough couple of weeks, but there is still a lot season left. We have a lot of series against the guys in [the division]."

The Angels on Sunday close out a four-game series with the Astros, and also a season-opening stretch in which 26 of the first 32 games were against AL West teams.

The Angels are 14-17 and sit in second place, just ahead of Seattle, Oakland and Texas.

"I think in our defense, we have been kind of butting heads with each other the first month," Scioscia said. "Outside of Houston, I don't think any team in our division has hit stride."

The Angels certainly haven't. This was their fourth loss in six games to the Astros, a team that has had little success in the last decade.

Houston has not been in first place this deep into the season since 2004, when the Astros were in the National League.

"If there was a button you could push, everyone would have a perfect record, a perfect batting average," Pujols said. "All you can do is flip the page."

Still, Trout pointed out, "You don't want to put yourself in a hole, obviously."

Trout knows that lesson. In the previous three seasons, where the Angels stood through the first quarter of the season affected where they finished.

•In 2012, they were seven games out of first place after 40 games. It proved too big a hole. The Angels closed to within three games at the end of the July, but could not overtake Oakland and finished five games out in third place.

•In 2013, the Angels were 10 games off the pace after 40 games and never recovered, finishing 18 games out.

•A year ago, the Angels were in a considerably smaller hole, 21/2 games out of first. They took over the lead for good on Aug. 26.

Scioscia isn't concerned with history.

"There is a long way to go, there's going to be a lot of twists and turns to the season," Scioscia said. "I don't think it serves much purpose to wake up and see how many games you're back right now."

Instead, the Angels are looking ahead.

"Sooner or later, things are going to come around," Pujols said. "When you look back in September, you forget about what happened the first month of the season."

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