ARLINGTON, Texas — The gravity of the situation couldn't weigh more heavily on the Angels on Thursday night after a 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in Globe Life Park pushed them to the brink of playoff elimination.
"We've got to win out," center fielder Mike Trout said. "We can't lose any more. It's plain and simple."
Adrian Beltre capped a four-run fifth inning with a three-run double off Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney to help the Rangers clinch a playoff spot and reduce their magic number to win the American League West to one.
The Angels, who three days ago controlled their postseason destiny by taking a half-game lead over Houston for the second AL wild-card spot, fell four games behind Texas with three games left, eliminating them from division contention.
They dropped a full game behind Houston for the second wild-card spot and are tied with Minnesota, which closes with three games against Kansas City. The Astros play three games at Arizona, and the Angels need the Diamondbacks to win at least once, if not more.
"We're going to need some help, but that doesn't mean anything if we don't win," Trout said. "We're still in it, so we're not going to hang our heads. We have to win. It comes down to that."
Thursday night's game came down to a pair of 2-and-2 sliders in the fifth, one to Shin-Soo Choo that Heaney felt was a strike and one to Beltre that he wished was more of a ball.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the second when Albert Pujols doubled to left-center, took third on C.J. Cron's groundout and scored on Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly to left.
Heaney blanked the Rangers on two hits through four innings, and the Angels backed him with two double plays and one nice catch — Trout's running grab of an Elvis Andrus drive to the wall in the second.
But Heaney cracked in the fifth. Andrus singled and stole second, and Robinson Chirinos walked with one out. Delino DeShields smacked a run-scoring double to left-center for a 1-1 tie.
With runners on second and third, Heaney got ahead of the left-handed-hitting Choo with two strikes but missed with four straight sliders, the third a pitch near the inside corner that umpire Quinn Wolcott called a ball.
"I'm not one to complain about umpires, but it sure looked like a strike to me," Heaney said. "He thought it was in. I thought it came back over the plate. That definitely changed the complexion of that inning."
Choo walked to load the bases. Had Heaney gotten the strikeout, he could have walked Beltre intentionally to face the left-handed-hitting Prince Fielder, who grounded out in his first two at-bats.
Instead, Heaney had to face Beltre, who got a shin-high breaking ball and roped it into the left-field corner for a 4-1 lead.
"That ball needs to be in the dirt," Heaney said. "I know he's able to get to that. It's in the middle of the plate. I need to bounce that. I'm not surprised. That guy is really good."
Manager Mike Scioscia could have summoned right-hander Cam Bedrosian to face Beltre, but he felt Heaney could escape the jam or minimize damage.
"He made a good pitch to Choo and didn't get the call, and that changes some of the dynamics," Scioscia said. "I felt if he could locate his fastball and get a mis-hit, he had a chance for a double play, but he couldn't get the breaking ball where he wanted it."
Pujols hit his 39th homer of the season in the sixth to make it 4-2, and the Angels pulled to within 4-3 on Erick Aybar's two-out RBI single in the seventh. But with runners on first and third, reliever Jake Diekman got Kole Calhoun to ground to short.
"We're still scratching and clawing, trying to get into the playoffs," Scioscia said. "But it's a harder route now, and we're going to need some help."
Right-hander Jered Weaver (7-12, 4.76 ERA) will oppose Texas left-hander Martin Perez (3-6, 4.77) at Globe Life Park on Friday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: FS West, ESPN; Radio: 830, 1330.