"We were swimming upstream from the beginning," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after a game in which the Royals scored seven runs in the third inning against Barry Enright and Mark Lowe and cruised to a 9-5 victory at Angel Stadium.
One quarter into their much-hyped season, the Angels are 15-25 and have now dropped 10 of their first 13 series. They trail the Rangers by 11 games in the American League West, the most they've been out of first place through 40 games since 2001, and they've already given up 195 earned runs, which is third-most in team history at this point.
The series finale against the Royals (20-17) marked the third start missed by a grieving Tommy Hanson, whose absence has exposed the Angels' lack of pitching depth. Each of those three times, the opposing team has batted around in an inning.
On Wednesday night, it was the third, when Enright loaded the bases with none out, then gave way to Lowe despite throwing only 47 pitches. Five of the first six batters Lowe faced reached base, plating seven runs -- three of which were charged to Enright -- as Kansas City built a commanding lead.
Mike Trout reached base four times and homered for the sixth time this month -- tying him with Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland for the most in May -- and the Angels cut into their large deficit little by little. But they couldn't get the big hit, failing to capitalize on bases-loaded situations in the fourth (inning-ending double play by Erick Aybar) and sixth (two-out groundout by Albert Pujols).
Besides, as Scioscia said, "When you struggle as much as we did on the pitching side, you really can't get enough offense to get back in. It's really tough."
So is piecing together a pitching staff that's hurt and not very deep once you get past those who were on the Opening Day roster. Angels coaches had a rather lengthy meeting after the game, trying to figure out ways to stay competitive on the nights one of their regular starters doesn't take the mound.
Hanson's next turn, at least, coincides with the Monday off-day, which buys the Angels some time. For now, Garrett Richards is not going back to the rotation.
"If our roles in our bullpen continue to form and it looks as though there's not a role for Garrett, we would consider it," Scioscia said. "But right now, we're going to take this one step at a time and see where it goes."
Enright filled in for Hanson in Chicago on Friday and was charged with four runs in the fourth, though the Angels came back to win that game. In the second inning on Wednesday, he gave up three hits and a run. In the third, he walked Jarrod Dyson despite getting ahead in the count, 0-2, then gave up a first-pitch single to Alcides Escobar and walked Alex Gordon.
Scioscia had seen enough.
"That's their decision, obviously it's not up to me," Enright said when asked if he was surprised to be taken out so early. "Obviously anyone would like to work out of things, but they felt they were doing what's best for the team."
Lowe came out of the bullpen and proceeded to give up a two-run single to Billy Butler, a three-run double to Lorenzo Cain, who then scored on a passed ball, and then, just for good measure, an RBI triple to Dyson when he came back around to hit.
"It started off with Dyson going 0-2 and then coaxing a walk," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Bases loaded and just kept the pressure on them that inning for seven runs."
On Tuesday night, the Angels had perhaps their most gratifying victory of 2013, with Trout, Pujols and Josh Hamilton homering in the same game for the first time and Jason Vargas pitching well.
On Wednesday night, the 31,917 fans in attendance booed louder than they have all year.
It's hard to sustain momentum without good pitching. And it's hard to have good pitching with Hanson and Jered Weaver still unavailable, three key relievers -- Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett and Kevin Jepsen -- still on the disabled list and very few options in the Minor Leagues.
In hopes of filling the voids in the starting rotation, the Angels have exhausted all options.
"We've seen them all and they're here," Scioscia said. "It's doable. Jerome [Williams] did it in Chicago. These guys have come out and given us chances to win, and we need to keep moving forward."