Things unraveled quickly Friday night for the Angels, who saw a promising start from Jered Weaver and a one-run lead disappear within the span of six pitches in the sixth inning of a 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals in Kauffman Stadium.
Ben Zobrist fought back from an 0-and-2 count to drive a full-count fastball to right field for a double. Lorenzo Cain, on an 0-1 pitch, hit a soft, spinning one-hopper that took a bad bounce past first baseman Albert Pujols for an error to score Zobrist for a 1-1 tie.
Eric Hosmer, clearly sitting on a 2-0 curve, crushed the 69-mph pitch for a two-run home run to right for a 3-1 lead.
"I was trying to drop something in there to get back in the count, and he was waiting for it," said Weaver, who allowed three runs — two earned — and four hits in six innings of his second start back from the disabled list. "So, home run."
Later in the inning, after walking Mike Moustakas, Weaver screamed at home-plate umpire John Tumpane after several pitches he thought were strikes were called balls.
As frustrated as the Angels were, they had a chance to get back in the game in the seventh, loading the bases with two outs despite having two runners tagged out in rundowns between second and third.
Up stepped cleanup batter Pujols, a career .335 hitter with the bases loaded and a .322 hitter with runners in scoring position. On the mound was right-hander Ryan Madson, a reclamation project who was out of baseball for three years because of elbow problems.
Madson got ahead of Pujols, 1-2, and shattered his bat with a 98-mph fastball that produced a weak grounder to short. End of rally, the result all too familiar to the Angels, who went one for nine with runners in scoring position, and Pujols, who is hitting .206 (20 for 97) with runners in scoring position this season.
"A hit could have tied the game, or an extra-base hit could have given us the lead there," Pujols said. "It's tough. I'm in the middle of the lineup, that's my job, and I'm not doing it. I'm not going to look for excuses. I'm just going to keep fighting and try to put good swings on it.
"It seems like I'm in between right now, putting good swings on the ball and not getting results, and getting down in a hole and feeling like I'm defending the strike zone. I'm getting my pitch and missing it. It's frustrating, but this game gives and it takes away. Right now, it's taking away."
Injury also took away a key player in shortstop Erick Aybar, who missed a second game because of tightness in the lower left side of his back.
Aybar, who is batting .273 with 20 doubles and 35 runs batted in, received treatment Friday but was not available to play in the game. He said afterward that he's "getting better and better," but when asked if he could play Saturday, he said, "I don't know."
Taylor Featherston, who is batting .135, started at shortstop and had a bloop single in two at-bats and made a high throw to second on a potential double-play ball in the eighth that led to a Royals run.
Aybar is not a perennial All-Star or Gold Glove Award winner, but he's a durable and dependable veteran who is impossible to replace because the Angels, who fell 21/2 games behind Houston in the American League West, have no one on their roster or in their system who can replicate what he does.
"A lot of people take him for granted — not us," Scioscia said. "He's part of the heartbeat of this team. He plays every game, every inning, and he plays at a high level. He can do so many things on the field that help you win games. A big piece of our lineup is missing."
Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker (5-8, 4.36 ERA) will oppose Kansas City right-hander Johnny Cueto (1-1, 2.05 ERA) at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m. PDT. TV: FS1; Radio: 830, 1220.