ARLINGTON -- In a vacuum, splitting a four-game series on the road against one of the best teams in baseball hardly qualifies as a disappointment.
But it's all relative to one's expectations.
Just one night ago, the Angels held a three-run lead and were three outs away from taking three in a row against the Rangers to inch closer to first place than they had been since early April. Close to midnight CT on Thursday, though, they shuffled out of the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark with only regret and deflation after another late-game collapse by their bullpen and a 15-9 defeat.
For the second straight night, they scored a lot, but pitched little. And for a second straight night, they lost against the team they're ever-chasing in the American League West. The series that at one point looked like the Angels were controlling had slipped from their grasp and finished as a wash, leaving them with the same five-game deficit they had when it all began.
It led to a rather disappointing finish.
"These couple of games aren't going to define our season, but it sure would've been nice to at least take the series, if not, maybe, all of them," outfielder Mark Trumbo said. "But this is where we're at."
On Wednesday night, the Angels had a golden opportunity to shrink their division deficit to two -- before the bullpen coughed up a one-run lead in the ninth and a three-run lead in the 10th. On Thursday night, the Angels' offense cranked out eight runs against new Rangers starter Ryan Dempster, but C.J. Wilson gave up eight runs of his own, and relievers David Carpenter, Jerome Williams and Hisanori Takahashi combined to give up seven runs (six earned) in the seventh and eighth.
Since the All-Star break, the Angels' bullpen has given up 38 runs (36 earned) in 56 innings.
Over the last two games, it's 13 runs (11 earned) in 6 1/3 innings.
"It was kind of a momentum-killer, with how we played the first two nights to how we played these last two," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But it's tough. It's a good team there, and obviously in this park, it's not a forgiving park if you're not hitting your spots, and our guys in the 'pen had trouble doing that."
The Angels' clubhouse was closed for more than 20 minutes postgame, but Scioscia was coy about what went on during that time.
One person he did speak with was Takahashi, who was visibly upset in the bullpen in the top of the seventh, apparently because he wasn't brought in to face lefty pinch-hitter David Murphy.
Takahashi wouldn't comment much about the incident, though, only acknowledging that he spoke with the skipper.
"Not much about it," he said through a translator. "It's not my decision."
With Scott Downs and Jordan Walden on the disabled list, LaTroy Hawkins pitching the sixth, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri being saved for later and Jason Isringhausen being unavailable, it was Carpenter -- just called up from Triple-A, and normally a long reliever -- who began the seventh inning of an 8-8 game.
Carpenter gave up a run on three hits and recorded one out before exiting. Williams gave up a walk and an RBI single to Wednesday's hero, Elvis Andrus, then left. And Takahashi surrendered a two-run, ground-rule double to Josh Hamilton, giving the Rangers a 12-8 cushion.
The Rangers added three more in an ugly eighth, but the damage had been done by then.
"We rose to the occasion," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We rose to the challenge and answered. I'm pretty happy with what we did in this series."
Dempster and Wilson finished with almost identical lines. Dempster, making his first start since coming over from the Cubs, gave up eight runs in 4 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits (two of them homers) and three walks. Wilson gave up eight runs in 5 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits (two of them homers) and three walks to tie a career high in runs allowed -- last done Aug. 5, 2005.
"It was a bunch of singles and stuff and I couldn't stop the bleeding," said Wilson, who hasn't won a game since June 26 -- a span of seven starts. "You have to give credit where it's due, and the mistakes I made they got hits off.
"I tried everything, besides the knuckleball and a split, really."
When the Angels built a two-run lead in the first, Wilson gave up five runs in a long second inning. When the Angels crawled all the way back to regain the lead with a four-run fourth, the Rangers tied it on a Nelson Cruz homer. And when the Angels took the lead again on a Kendrys Morales double, Wilson gave it up again, surrendering an RBI double to Andrus before exiting -- and leaving the bullpen to give up the game once again.
The Angels scored 40 runs in this series but won only two games.
A lost week?
"It's kind of status quo, I guess," said Wilson, whose team continues its road trip with a weekend series against the White Sox. "We didn't gain any ground, we didn't lose any ground. Like I said, this is a long season. Both these teams are very, very good, and we hit better this series than we have for a long time, so we're taking personal encouragement off that."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.