Last August in Cleveland, the Angels fell further below .500 than they had been in 17 seasons with Mike Scioscia presiding. The Indians swept them in four heavily delayed games, each muggy day threatened by rain, making for a miserable weekend and cross-country flight home.
The Angels’ record entering this series is improved and Northeast Ohio’s midsummer weather much more temperate, but the results have been no better.
After their seven-run comeback was negated in Tuesday’s 11th inning, the Angels unraveled during a tied seventh inning and lost 10-4 Wednesday.
They sank five games behind an American League wild-card spot. Only four games remain until Monday’s trade deadline, their decision day for whether to buy, sell or stand. Their season is on the brink.
“Usually, in the second half of the season, you start looking at the standings,” Mike Trout said. “But we can’t. We gotta go out there and play our game. Once we start looking at the standings, that’s when we’re gonna get in trouble, try to do too much.”
Trying not to do too much is Trout’s mantra. He says it after he homers, says it after he fails. The Angels as a team, though, do not have Trout’s talent. On top of ongoing offensive flaws, they are undermanned in the starting rotation, a group that Scioscia said Wednesday has been “patchwork” since the season’s start.
For most of Wednesday, the game was within reach. Scorned starter Ricky Nolasco surrendered a first-inning home run to Bradley Zimmer, but pitched through traffic by pounding the zone with strikes.
Once the first two Indians reached base in the fourth, Carlos Santana punched a single into right field. Kole Calhoun scooped it and delivered a targeted throw home in time for catcher Martin Maldonado to tag out Edwin Encarnacion. After a strikeout, Yan Gomes knocked another single into right. Calhoun could not conjure another out at home.
As he entered the seventh inning, Carrasco had retired seven consecutive Angels. Valbuena snapped the streak with a 438-foot strike to center field, tying the score with his solo shot.
Austin Jackson led off the seventh with a single, then advanced to third on a stolen base and errant throw, only to be ordered back to first because of unintentional interference. Home-plate umpire Nic Lentz ruled that Indians infielder Erik Gonzalez had touched Maldonado’s leg as he completed his swing.
After Gonzalez lined out, Zimmer again approached. Rookie right-hander Keynan Middleton was warm in the Angels’ bullpen, but Scioscia opted to stick with his starter. Finally, with his 119th pitch, Nolasco fired a 3-and-2 slider along the outside edge of the plate. Zimmer whacked it for a double off of the wall.
“It wasn’t that bad of a pitch,” Nolasco said. “He just put some good wood on it, he won that battle, and that was the end of the night.”
Nolasco had not thrown 119 pitches in a start in five years. He said he’d be glad to do it more often.
“It was important for us to get as much length as we can,” Scioscia said. “He almost got out of the seventh inning. One last pitch got him.”
“The ball just wasn’t coming out the way we were used to seeing it tonight,” Scioscia said. “He was a little erratic with his command.”
The Angels have 60 games left to play, and that, they say, is enough.
“It’s still too early to look at the standings,” Scioscia said. “We know the challenges we have.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura