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Ohtani’s blast prevents a shutout — but not the Angels’ third loss in a row

Ohtani’s blast prevents a shutout — but not the Angels’ third loss in a row
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons is forced out at second base by Rays second baseman Joey Wendle during the fourth inning of a game Thursday at Angel Stadium. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Were he so inclined, Mike Trout could have spent the last few days reading various national stories about how he is …

Improving as a baseball player.

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Might already be a Hall of Famer.

Could be having the greatest season of all time.

In all likelihood, however, Trout is more focused on the fact that in his last 19 at-bats he has zero hits.

Why do these numbers matter? Well, this is the longest such streak of his otherwise stellar career, while also serving as a perfect glimpse at a flailing lineup, the Angels falling Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1.

"My timing's just off a little bit," Trout said. "Obviously, the results aren't there."

The only breakthrough for the Angels came in garbage time, the bottom of the ninth inning, when Shohei Ohtani homered to give the Angels one memorable moment in a game that was 99% forgettable.

Before Ohtani's 411-foot shot, the Angels had been shut out for parts of three days and 21 innings, their offense unable to do much of anything against the Houston Astros' Justin Verlander or the Rays' Chris Archer, among others.

Verlander has been especially difficult of late on the Angels, and Archer is 6-1 all-time against them. Still, he came into Thursday's game dragging a 5.64 earned-run average and had won only once in his previous six starts.

Didn't matter. The Angels, in their present state, are missing on all cylinders.

"Right now, there are a few more guys searching than are really feeling good in the box," manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys will get it together."

Scoiscia has tried scrambling his lineup, going with Trout and Ohtani at the top of the order for two games this week. The change having yielded little, Scioscia returned to a more traditional batting order against the Rays. And the results remained the same.

Things turned ugliest in the sixth, when Justin Upton was struck in the left hand by an Archer fastball clocked at 94.8 mph.

Upton squatted in pain and was quickly taken back to the clubhouse. Initial X-rays showed no fracture, and the Angels announced that Upton is considered day-to-day.

Upton, who had homered in six of his previous 11 games before Thursday, this week was called "probably one of the hottest hitters in our league" by Scioscia.

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Losing him for any extended time would put added strain on a lineup already searching for the type of production that helped the Angels open the season with a franchise-best 13 victories in 16 games.

Since then, they're 12-16 and have looked nothing like the obvious playoff contenders they resembled through much of April.

This latest offensively challenged defeat wasted another strong start by Tyler Skaggs, who gave up only one run in six innings to lower his ERA to 2.88.

The Angels now have had a franchise-record 17 consecutive games in which their starter has given up three runs or fewer. And during that stretch they're only 9-8.

The mood Thursday wasn't helped at all by the fact that a former Angel returned to produce as much offense as all of the current Angels combined.

C.J. Cron, traded to Tampa Bay during spring training, homered against Skaggs in the sixth for the first run of the game.

It was Cron's 11th homer of the season, a number that would be tied for second on the Angels.

"He's one of the favorites over here in the clubhouse," Scioscia said, and, yes, this was uttered before the game. "He's getting an opportunity and making the most of it. We're all happy for him.

"We just hope he doesn't hurt us this series."

Too late.

Follow Jeff Miller on Twitter @JeffMillerLAT

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