DETROIT — It's a pattern seen often with underachieving teams that are fading from playoff contention in September. First comes a lengthy period of frustration, followed by a period of desperation, and, finally, a sense of resignation.
The Angels, after being manhandled by the Detroit Tigers in a 9-0 loss Friday night, seem to be hovering between frustration and desperation, their 8 1/2-game deficit behind Oakland in the American League West looking insurmountable with 27 games left.
"We stink," shortstop Orlando Cabrera said after the Angels managed only five hits against Detroit starter Kenny Rogers and relievers Joel Zumaya and Jason Grilli. "Write it down -- we stink. We need to win, man. We need to play better."
The Angels have lost six of nine, and with the A's applying suffocating pressure -- Oakland has won 22 of 27 games -- the Angels have virtually no margin for error, no room to breathe.
It's almost as if the Angels have to win every night, "but we can't play like that," center fielder Chone Figgins said.
"We have to fight it out and see what happens at the end."
Seven of the Angels' last 10 games are against the A's, so if they can get within striking distance going into that stretch -- three, maybe four games behind -- they believe they can make a run.
But unless they make a move soon, and the A's cooperate by losing, the Angels will have to sweep those seven games to have any chance of winning their third straight division title.
"We can't control that," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "All we can do is go out there and win. This is obviously not a good time of the season to stumble, to get out of what's been working for us the last six weeks. We're going to do everything we can to bring the game we need to play out there. It didn't happen tonight."
Rogers wouldn't let it. The crafty 41-year-old left-hander mixed his 87-mph fastball with an 80-mph changeup and an assortment of breaking pitches to blank the Angels on four hits in seven innings, improve to 15-6 and help the Tigers extend their AL Central lead over the White Sox to 5 1/2 games.
The Angels threatened once, when Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera singled to open the second, but Rogers retired Garret Anderson, Robb Quinlan and Howie Kendrick to snuff out the rally and allowed only two more runners to reach second.
Then the Tigers, with a 5-0 lead built on Craig Monroe's first-inning homer, Omar Infante's two-run double in the second and RBI doubles by Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson in the fourth, all off Angels starter Ervin Santana, replaced a Yugo with a top-fuel dragster.
That's what it must have seemed like for the Angels to go from the soft-serve deliveries of Rogers to the wicked fastball of Zumaya, the 21-year-old right-hander who topped out at 102 mph on the Comerica Park speed gun Friday.
"Any time you have a bullpen like that and a couple of starters who can keep you in it, it's game over," Cabrera said.
Zumaya walked pinch-hitter Reggie Willits to open the eighth, got Figgins to pop to third and walked Maicer Izturis. Cabrera flied to center, setting up a showdown between Zumaya and Guerrero, who swings as hard as Zumaya throws.
Guerrero swung violently through a 100-mph fastball -- had he connected, he might have hit it to Canada -- and took a knee-buckling, 82-mph curve for strike two before grounding back to the mound on a fastball.
"The big guy comes out there, I'm going to go right at him," said Zumaya, who has a 2.00 earned-run average and has held opponents to a .171 average. "I love the challenge. I wish I could have struck him out, but at least I got a ground ball to end the inning."