The rotation finally jells in late August, and the offense goes into a lengthy funk. The hitters break out Saturday night, reaching double figures in runs for only the second time this month, and the pitchers can't get anyone out.
If the Angels don't get their act together soon, they will be surprise entrants in a race few thought they'd be running this week: one with the Texas Rangers for the American League West title.
The Angels blew a seven-run, fourth-inning lead Saturday night to the Oakland Athletics, who scored 13 runs against starter John Lackey and four relievers from the fifth through eighth innings in a 15-10 victory in Angel Stadium.
That gave the Angels their first four-game losing streak of the season and trimmed their lead over the Rangers to five games with eight games left, including four against Texas beginning Monday night in Anaheim.
The Angels' magic number remains at four.
"Sometimes a team with nothing to lose is pretty dangerous," Lackey said of the A's after the 3-hour 49-minute game. "They're playing good baseball. But we've got to play better baseball.
"The parts are there. We pitched great the last two days. The offense did great today and I stunk. If we put it together on the same day, we'll be all right."
With the Angels seemingly pressing, Manager Mike Scioscia held a brief team meeting after the game.
"What we have to fight is the frustration level," Scioscia said. "These guys obviously know what's at stake. We're going about it as hard as a team can, maybe a little bit too hard."
The Angels ended a 9-9 tie on a pinch-hit, run-scoring single by Gary Matthews Jr. in the seventh inning.
Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen got into -- and nearly out of -- a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the eighth, striking out Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney on full-count fastballs.
But Kurt Suzuki lined a run-scoring single to right field to make it 10-10, and Jack Cust hit a run-scoring double to right-center field to give Oakland an 11-10 lead. Daric Barton greeted reliever Matt Palmer with a run-scoring single, his fourth hit, and Mark Ellis hit a three-run home run.
On the plus side, an Angels offense that scored three runs or less in 15 of 23 September games and scored two runs, struck out 28 times and went 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position in the previous two games, scored 10 runs.
Scioscia moved No. 3 hitter Bobby Abreu to second in the lineup and No. 2 hitter Maicer Izturis to ninth, giving the Angels more of a situational look at the bottom of the order.
Torii Hunter, who was hitting behind cleanup batter Vladimir Guerrero, hit third, ahead of Guerrero.
"They're subtle changes, but maybe they can get us moving in the right direction," Scioscia said. "We need to get out of first gear."
Juan Rivera jump-started the Angels offense with a three-run home run over both bullpens in left field in the first inning, giving him career highs in home runs (24) and runs batted in (86).
Two one-out walks and an error aided the Angels in their six-run fourth inning, which featured Chone Figgins' two-run single and Bobby Abreu's two-run home run, which gave the veteran outfielder 100 RBIs in each of the last seven seasons.
The only other major leaguer to accomplish that feat is St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols.