That stunning comeback against the vaunted Kansas City Royals bullpen on Thursday night looks more like an aberration for the Angels, who gained zero momentum from their most improbable victory of the season.
Matt Shoemaker failed to escape a second inning in which he was rocked for six runs and six hits Saturday night, and the Angels dropped their second straight to the Royals, 9-4, in Kauffman Stadium.
Thursday's win was a brief uptick in a lengthy downward trend for the Angels, who have lost 16 of 22 games and are batting .221 overall, .185 with runners in scoring position and averaging three runs in 14 August games. They've lost five of six on this seven-game trip.
It seems hard to believe this club averaged 5.7 runs while winning 17 of 20 games from June 27 to July 22. But as shaky as the Angels have been in recent weeks, as little as they've hit top-flight pitching, they see reason for hope in the big picture.
They are 21/2 games behind the Houston Astros in the American League West and a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card spot.
"We need to execute better, we need to find ways to get it done, but if the season ended today, we'd be in the playoffs," closer Huston Street said. "Everyone in here will admit we have not played very good baseball other than that 20-game stretch where we won 17 games.
"But we still played that stretch. For all of the downs, we're in a good position. We're right there. We're not clawing back from a big deficit. There's a lot of teams that would be envious of our position."
But can the Angels compete with elite teams like the Royals, who have a league-best 70-46 record and are running away with the AL Central?
It didn't look like it the last two nights. They were shut down by left-hander Danny Duffy and three relievers Friday and completely outplayed Saturday.
Kansas City throttled four Angels pitchers for 14 hits, including a solo homer and RBI double by catcher Salvador Perez and a two-run single by Jarrod Dyson in the second.
Right-hander Johnny Cueto, acquired from Cincinnati on July 23, gave up one run and eight hits in eight innings, striking out four and walking none to improve to 2-1 with a 1.80 earned-run average in four starts for the Royals.
And Kansas City gunned down two Angels on the basepaths — Johnny Giavotella was picked off first by Perez in the first, and David Murphy was thrown out at the plate by Dyson when he tried to score from second on David DeJesus' single.
Still, Street seems undeterred.
"The reason we won 17 of 20 is we executed, we played good team baseball, and when we play good team baseball, I think we're one of the best teams in the league," he said. "The talent is in here.
"Go position by position, compare and contrast, and we match up, from starting pitching to the bullpen, to position players, and it always helps to have two of the best players in the world in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols."
Few Angels fans would agree with Street's assessment, but clearly, this team is better than it has shown in recent weeks. And the Astros have lost eight of 11 and haven't separated themselves from the Angels.
"I don't think Houston is capable of running away and hiding," reliever Joe Smith said. "They have a great club, but we've gone on a hot streak, and we know we can do it again.
"And when we get hot, we can get hot for a long time. We can roll off 25 of 30, something crazy like that. We have the confidence. We just have to execute. Everybody do their thing, don't try to do too much, just be you, play baseball."
Left-hander Hector Santiago (7-6, 2.87 ERA) will oppose Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura (7-7, 4.97) at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: ESPN; Radio: 830, 1330.