It's difficult enough for the Angels, with their spotty offense, to win games when they get superb pitching. String a few shoddy starts together, like they did the last week, and they have virtually no chance.
A rotation that leads the American League with 33 quality starts was torched for 29 earned runs, including 10 home runs, in 24 1/3 innings of the last five games, an unsightly ERA of 10.73.
It's no shock that the Angels, on the heels of a five-game winning streak, lost all five games, the latest Sunday's 6-2 clunker at the hands of the New York Yankees, who rode a quick-strike, four-run rally against left-hander C.J. Wilson in the fifth inning to a three-game sweep in Yankee Stadium.
"When you're not scoring runs, there is a premium on stopping runs," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've held our heads above water purely with what we've done on the pitching side.
"A couple of guys on the offensive side have done what they can do, but you can have an incredible offense, and everything you do will still hinge on your rotation giving you a chance to get into the flow of the game."
Despite a recent power surge in which they've hit 20 home runs in 11 games, the Angels rank 26th in the major leagues with a .238 average and .299 on-base percentage and 25th with a .680 on-base-plus-slugging mark.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who hit consecutive home runs in the first inning Sunday, have combined for 31 home runs and 62 runs batted in, and Kole Calhoun (.266, five home runs, 25 RBIs), David Freese (nine homers, 31 RBIs), Erick Aybar (.265) and Johnny Giavotella (.277, 21 RBIs) have had decent seasons.
But three key players — Matt Joyce (.188, four homers, 17 RBIs), Chris Iannetta (.171, three homers, 14 RBIs) and C.J. Cron (.192, one home run, six RBIs) — have lagged far behind, putting a strain on the top of the order. The bottom five hitters Sunday were 0 for 15.
"We need to step our game, we need to play more consistent baseball if we're going to reach our goal," Scioscia said. "We feel it's in this team. But we're making a turn through two months of the season, and some guys just haven't hit their stride. That's something we need to pay a lot of attention to."
The Angels' problems Sunday extended to the basepaths. They had a chance to extend a lead to 3-0 in the third inning when, with runners at first base and third base and one out, Freese lifted an apparent sacrifice fly into the right-field corner.
But Trout tagged from first base and was thrown out at second base by right fielder Carlos Beltran before Aybar, who tagged from third base, crossed the plate, negating the run.
"Two runs is not much of a lead in Yankee Stadium, but what hurts is that we didn't score that third run," Wilson said. "We were just very aggressive and got beat by an inch at second."
Scioscia called the play "a glitch," saying Trout "got a little aggressive on his end," and Aybar "got caught a little coming off third and anticipating scoring easy."
It was hard to fault the players, though.
"No one plays harder than Mike or Erick," Scioscia said. "It's really an anomaly that something like that would happen, but it did."
Said Trout: "When you're winning, you don't pick apart little things. When you lose, every little thing stands out."
Until the Angels can support solid pitching with a consistently productive offense, they won't have much margin for error.
"We have to dig deep and execute the fundamentals," Wilson said. "I know that sounds cheesey, but that's the one thing I feel we haven't done as well as we can. We have a lot of guys who have amazing physical talent, but we have to execute the fundamentals like moving runners over, stuff like that. You can't just rely on homers."