OAKLAND -- The Angels have essentially been moving backward all year, gradually digging a hole that has only grown larger as the season goes on.
Now, it appears, they're free-falling.
On Sunday morning, they found out they'd probably be without their No. 3 hitter and highest-paid player for the balance of the season. By Sunday afternoon, they had suffered a 10-6 loss to the A's -- despite building a five-run lead in the second inning -- to fall to seven games below .500, 13 games out of first place and 8 1/2 back of the final postseason spot in the American League.
"There's nothing we can do to fix it overnight," said Josh Hamilton, who will return to Texas once again for the start of a three-game series on Monday. "The biggest thing is to not put pressure on yourself, try to do too much and make up for 13 games in one day -- because it's not going to happen. Just go out there and play, man. I mean, it's overwhelming to think about. So, you don't think about it."
Shortly after news came down that Albert Pujols had partially torn his left plantar fascia, the Angels erupted with a four-run first inning against A's starter Jarrod Parker, batting around while getting RBI singles from Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo, the last of which plated two runs.
When Kendrick beat out a potential inning-ending double play with a head-first slide in the second, the Angels had built a 5-0 lead.
Shortly after that, it evaporated.
Starter Tommy Hanson gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, center fielder Mike Trout lost two balls in the sun and new reliever J.C. Gutierrez was charged with four earned runs in a backbreaking, five-run sixth.
On Sunday morning, manager Mike Scioscia called a meeting with the hitters to talk about the loss of Pujols and address a 12-game stretch that saw them average 2.6 runs a game. In the end, it was the pitching and the defense that cost them.
When it's not one thing, it's another.
"We're not going to wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden we're playing to our potential and meeting expectations, but you have to move towards that," Scioscia said. "We've had some breakdowns on the pitching side, some guys have been struggling a bit and some guys have been banged up. On the offensive side, there's been some non-performance and some guys are obviously hurt now. We need to pick up our game with whatever pieces are out there because we still have the makings to make our run if we get healthy and get a more cohesive look in some areas."
Five days ago, in his first start since missing more than three weeks with a forearm strain, Hanson had by far his most encouraging outing of the season, pitching five innings of one-run ball on a limited pitch count and hitting 92-94 mph with his fastball -- the hardest he had thrown in two years.
His fastball was still pretty crisp on Sunday -- mostly 91-92 mph, which is still a tick or two faster than where he had been earlier this season -- but he lost his feel in a 32-pitch third inning that saw the A's plate three runs, and he finished walking a season-high five batters.
"The problem was the walks," Hanson said. "You get a five-run lead after two and start walking guys, it's not how you draw it up."
But the Angels' outfield didn't help.
It looked like Hanson was going to escape the fifth with a one-run lead when Yoenis Cespedes skied a high fly ball, but Trout didn't see it, Kole Calhoun -- called up to take Pujols' spot on the roster -- didn't call off Trout and the A's tied the game.
In the sixth, with one on, none out and Gutierrez on the mound, Stephen Vogt lofted a catchable soft liner into left-center field, but Trout and Hamilton couldn't decide on who would make the play and then collided, resulting in an RBI double that allowed the A's to tie the game once again.
"It's tough to pick up balls off the bat [at O.co Coliseum]," Trout said. "The 12 o'clock game [on Saturday] wasn't as bad, but when you get that 1 o'clock game, it was pretty much following me the whole day."
From there, the first-place A's (62-43) broke it open. Eric Sogard laced an RBI single, Jed Lowrie brought him in with a double, Brandon Moss drove in a run with a single, and Cespedes added an RBI double to cap a five-run comeback.
"I didn't for one minute think, being down 5-0, that we're not coming back and doing nothing," A's manager Bob Melvin said after watching his team go 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position. "It's tough to come back from a five-run lead, but these guys are pretty relentless, so I at least expected something, and we got more than you could ever hope for."
The Angels can only hope for some semblance of positive news for a season that's quickly slipping away. They just lost three of four in a crucial series, don't figure to have Pujols back all year and will now face a Rangers team that's seven games better despite losing four in a row.
"We just have to stay positive," Trout said. "We can't look ahead of ourselves. We have a big series with Texas. We have to take care of things over there."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.