The Angels staggered out of the clubhouse Wednesday after their 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins, trying desperately to shed the feeling that suddenly was encompassing them.
The sensation that they became so familiar with a year ago, when they lost 90 games, was suffocating their vigor and early-season optimism.
"I don't think it's one of those things that we're expecting to lose now," Angel second baseman Damion Easley said, "but this has put us in a state of shock."
Said shortstop Gary DiSarcina: "It reminds me a lot of last year when things got so bad and we lost 11 in a row. I had flashbacks of the days when teams took it to us while we played on our heels.
"We've definitely lost our aggressiveness, and we've got to get it back before it's too late."
The crowd of 25,200 at Anaheim Stadium, which watched the Angels lose their first home series of the season, shared the players' sentiments. They responded by booing lustily on occasion and laughing aloud at other times.
The Twins, who humiliated the Angels by winning 11 of their 13 games a year ago, again had the Angels reverting to their old tricks. The Angels committed three errors and produced enough mental gaffes to leave Manager Buck Rodgers seething by the game's conclusion.
"I know this is a learning process for the team, and there are some things I'm willing to turn my head on," Rodgers said, "but not this.
"This is unacceptable. I didn't see a whole lot of good out there today. It's like we didn't leave a wake-up call. We slept through the whole ballgame."
Considering the Angels have made six errors the last four games, ending their streak of leading the league in the fewest errors, was there any chance of Rodgers staging a mandatory workout on their off-day today?
"Hey, I'm not going to punish myself," Rodgers said.
The Angels' problems on this day may have started with first baseman J.T. Snow. Sick with flu, he was replaced in the lineup by Gary Gaetti. While Snow may be in a four-for-53 slump, the Angel infielders have become so used to him at first base, it was as if they lost their security blanket.
"The infielders are so accustomed to J.T. Snow," Rodgers said, "you could see they were trying to adjust. This isn't aimed at Gary Gaetti, but you could see the infielders trying to adjust by making the perfect throws."
The Angels, already trailing, 2-0, after former teammate Dave Winfield's home run in the first inning, self-destructed in the second. With one out, catcher Lenny Webster hit a groundball to third baseman Torey Lovullo. He had plenty of time, but Lovullo threw wide to first, pulling Gaetti off the base.
"It's nothing against Gary, believe me," Lovullo said. "but it's a thing where you feel so comfortable with J.T. It's like no matter where you throw it, you know he's going to make a great play."
Pat Meares followed Lovullo's error by dumping a bloop single into shallow right-center. Easley lunged for the ball, and center fielder Chad Curtis picked it up and promptly threw it past Lovullo and into the Angel dugout.
"There was no communication between us," said Easley, who also was involved in a foul-up Tuesday night with Curtis when they allowed a ball to drop in between them. "We were talking a lot out there at the beginning of the season, but I don't know if we're taking things for granted now or what, but we don't communicate like we used to."
Easley dropped a popup in the fifth inning; no one covered third on a single by Webster in the seventh inning; Curtis was picked off first base in the eighth inning.
"It was one of the few times we've beaten ourselves," said Angel starter Chuck Finley (3-3), who yielded a season-high 10 hits and three earned runs in seven innings.
The Angels (18-13) hope that the off-day will allow them to regroup, and perhaps come to the realization that nothing should be taken for granted simply because of their surprising start.
"Right now, we're scrapping to stay on top of the heap," DiSarcina said.