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Rays ace David Price sets down the Angels

So much for the “pep talk” Manager Mike Scioscia gave his team before Monday night’s game. If there was any pep to the Angels, it was mostly confined to the clubhouse, because there wasn’t much on the Angel Stadium field.

A sloppy first inning on defense, combined with another sluggish game on offense, were the lowlights of a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, who were led by David Price’s seven-inning, one-run, five-hit, seven-strikeout, no-walk effort.

The Angels have lost five of six games, scoring 12 runs during the stretch, and since pushing their record to 20-15 on May 18, they have lost 17 of 27 games to fall to 30-32 and 41/2 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West.

They played all but two of their last 27 games without left fielder and No. 5 hitter Vernon Wells, who could return tonight from a right groin strain.

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Their top hitter, Howie Kendrick, also sat out 14 games because of a right hamstring strain, and he has struggled to find his rhythm since his Saturday return, going hitless in 10 at-bats in his first three games off the disabled list.

Though first baseman Kendrys Morales is out for the season because of a second surgery on his injured left ankle, the Angels could return to something close to full strength Tuesday night, which would seemingly give them reason for hope.

Or not.

“We’ll definitely be better as a team, but you can’t put a lot of weight on two guys,” Kendrick said. “It’s a team. When we’re all in sync and doing what we can do, that’s when we’re playing our best baseball.

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“Everybody has to be playing well. The pitching has been good all year. We just have to put up some runs and turn things around. We’re in a bit of a rut right now.”

The Angels were one for five with runners in scoring position and rank 13th in the league with a .230 average in those situations.

They avoided what would have been their ninth shutout of the season when Mark Trumbo doubled to center field to lead off the eighth inning and scored on Jeff Mathis’ single to center to make it 5-1.

But the game was pretty much decided by that point, the Rays scoring twice in the first inning with the help of shortstop Erick Aybar’s fielding miscue and Alberto Callaspo’s error, twice in the sixth on Justin Ruggiano’s two-run home run against starter Tyler Chatwood and once in the seventh on Matt Joyce’s run-scoring single to right field.

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Johnny Damon led off the first inning with a single and stole second when catcher Mathis’ throw squirted out of Aybar’s glove.

“I tried to be too quick on the tag, because I thought the runner was closer,” Aybar said. “The throw was there. He was out.”

Damon advanced to third base on Ben Zobrist’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Joyce’s sacrifice fly. Casey Kotchman reached on Callaspo’s fielding error and later scored on Ruggiano’s single.

“The first inning we gave them a couple of runs they didn’t have to work that hard for,” Scioscia said. “The inning could have been clean if we get the caught stealing. Instead, they send seven to the plate and score two runs.

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“We cracked the door open for them, and Price pounded that zone, he threw strikes, and he didn’t give us a chance to get anything going.”


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