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Pujols' two-run jack pulls Halos within 1

ANAHEIM -- If the weather hadn't been so warm around these parts lately, you'd swear this was April.

Lately, the Angels have looked a lot like the team that struggled through the early portion of the season, starting off 6-14 before going on a surge that this current skid is rendering rather meaningless. When they hit, they don't pitch. When they pitch, they don't hit. And when they get behind, they can't come all the way back.

On Monday night, against an Indians team that had won just nine of its first 30 second-half games and was coming off a blowout, the Angels got a solid outing from C.J. Wilson, but couldn't do much off Justin Masterson and watched as their bullpen increased their deficit from one to four in the ninth inning.

The result was a 6-2 defeat at Angel Stadium. It gave the Angels their ninth loss in their past 12 games, put them at 12-18 since the All-Star break, kept them eight games back of the Rangers in the American League West and moved them to 2 1/2 games off the pace for the final Wild Card spot.

Coming off a disheartening 4-6 road trip, this was supposed to be the homestand that got the Angels back on track.

That homestand has begun 1-3.

"It's slipping through our fingers a little bit, and that's frustrating," said Wilson, who gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings before exiting with a non-threatening bruise to his pitching hand. "Those games are there for us to win. They definitely are. A lot of the games in the second half have been there for us to win, and we haven't closed the deal on offense or defense or pitching."

On Monday, it was the bullpen -- a thin one with Scott Downs and Jordan Walden still out -- that couldn't keep the Angels within range.

Albert Pujols hit an eighth-inning two-run homer off reliever Vinnie Pestano, making it a 3-2 game and finally breathing some life into an offense that went five straight innings without putting a runner in scoring position. But Hisanori Takahashi gave up three straight singles and Jason Isringhausen allowed his three inherited runners to score -- on a walk, a sac fly and a wild pitch.

The Angels can't seem to get anything when they need it in August -- and are struggling almost as profoundly as they did in April.

"Losing's losing," outfielder Mark Trumbo said, dismissing the correlation. "I think we're capable of more. We're in a much better spot now than we were then. We've seen what we can do. Up to that point [in April], it had just been spring and not regular-season-game action. It sucks either way, but I think everyone's more optimistic at this point in time.

"We have some pretty recent memory of playing pretty good baseball. We're not terribly far removed from being one of the top teams, and I think everyone in this room believes that's where we're going to be."

From the start of the second half to this past Saturday, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game (5.57) while their pitching staff posted the AL's highest ERA (5.30). But over the last two games, Wilson and Jered Weaver gave up three runs each while the offense combined to score one run while they were on the mound.

Masterson threw six-plus innings of shutout ball despite giving up six hits and walking three, improving to 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in seven career starts against the Angels.

The offense has now gone 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position over the last five games.

"Unfortunately, offensively we've had a little bit of a lull these last few games, but the month before we've been incredible," said manager Mike Scioscia, who held a postgame team meeting Sunday. "It's time for guys really just to hitch up their bootstraps and get out there and get after it and play the way we can on both ends."

Wilson has now gone nine consecutive starts without capturing a victory, which last occurred way back on June 26. But the lefty did pitch better. Wilson had posted a 6.98 ERA over his previous five outings, but gave up just three runs in 6 2/3 innings, moving to 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA on the year.

With two outs in the sixth, Wilson stuck his left hand out to try and snatch a line drive off the bat of Lou Marson -- as is his custom -- and promptly came out of the game, though that was probably going to be his last inning anyway. Postgame X-rays came up negative and he's expected to be just fine to make his next start.

When he does, he'll at least have something to build on.

"No doubt," Scioscia said. "I think he has a lot to absorb tonight."

But the Angels have a lot work to do.

"Our thought process is, 'OK, it's going to turn around -- this is the inning, this is the game, this is the at-bat,'" Wilson said. "And we just haven't been coming through. That's what it is. It's very cut and dried."

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