Two months and four days ago, the Angels completed a sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
The Angels had played 16 games in the new season, winning 13. The American League West included the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, but first place belonged to the Angels.
Little did we know that might turn out to be the high point of the season. That new season is halfway done, and the Angels might be close to done.
For the first time this season, the Angels’ deficit is numbered in double digits. The Arizona Diamondbacks dumped the Angels on Monday, 7-4, and the home team plummeted 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading Astros.
The Angels have lost seven games in nine days. Sure, the Astros have won 12 games in a row and might never lose again, but the Angels have lost seven of their last eight.
Wild card? That deficit is only slightly less menacing, at 8 1/2 games.
Win first, worry about the standings later, said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
“We need to get our own house in order,” Scioscia said. “We’re not looking at the standings. They’re irrelevant right now.”
Said outfielder Justin Upton: “There’s no point in getting discouraged. We’ve got to be here for the next half of the season. We all know that. We’re going to go out and play hard and try to win baseball games. That’s our job. That’s what we do.”
Mike Trout leads the major leagues in home runs, Upton ranks among the top 10 in the American League in home runs and Albert Pujols ranks seventh on the all-time home run list. You might wonder how many times the Angels had hit back-to-back home runs this season.
The answer, before Monday, was zero.
Upton and Pujols turned the trick in the fourth inning — both against winning pitcher Zack Greinke — but by then the Angels trailed, 6-0. For Pujols, the home run was No. 626 of his career, four behind Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth on the all-time list.
Upton had another opportunity in the seventh inning, with the bases loaded, representing the tying run. He drove a pitch deep to center field, but Arizona’s Jarrod Dyson leaped high above the warning track, robbing Upton of an extra-base hit and perhaps a grand slam.
Upton got a sacrifice fly for his trouble, and the Angels got a run.
They were within three, at 6-3. They did not get any closer.
The evening started poorly for the Angels and never got much better. They gave up two runs before they got an out, with Paul Goldschmidt hitting a two-run homer four pitches into the game.
No shame there. Goldschmidt is batting .426 in June, with eight home runs in 17 games. The Diamondbacks are 12-5 this month.
The greater cause of concern for the Angels would be the progress of rookie Jaime Barria, who has been one of their few reliably healthy starters this season.
Barria gave up a career-high six runs in four innings. Two of the first six batters hit home runs: Goldschmidt and Ketel Marte.
In Barria’s first five starts, he posted a 2.13 earned-run average, pitching 251/3 innings and giving up one home run.
In his four starts since, he has put up a 5.40 ERA, pitching 20 innings and giving up seven home runs.
“You’re seeing a young pitcher,” Scioscia said. “He missed some spots. Guys are getting hold of some pitches.
“He’s got really good command when he’s on. At times, when it’s wavered, he’s paid a price for it. He’s going to be fine.”
The game was lost for the Angels, but all but was not lost.
The team welcomed back outfielder Kole Calhoun, whose batting average had fallen to .145 when an oblique strain presented him and the team a chance for a fresh start.
Calhoun, in his first appearance since May 31, singled in his first at-bat, and again in his third at-bat.