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TB@LAA: Trout's 24th homer gets Angels on the board

ANAHEIM -- The Angels are running out of ideas. While navigating through this rough homestand, ultimately going 3-7 to give them 13 losses in their last 18 games, they've called two team meetings in the hopes of wrapping their collective heads around why a team that's so talented and so healthy just can't win.

"It feels like somebody had a little voodoo doll and they're messing with us," outfielder Torii Hunter said after the most recent setback, an 8-3 loss on Sunday at Angel Stadium that led to a four-game sweep against the Rays.

"I think you can see everybody pressing right now," catcher Bobby Wilson added. "When stuff's going bad, you try and you try and you try. Sometimes you have to back off and try to enjoy the game again."

Baseball isn't fun for the Angels these days, as they continue to slide in the standings and crumble under the weight of the expectations they carried into this much-hyped season.

On Saturday night, they blew an eight-run lead, then tried to clear the air by holding a players-only meeting -- which came six days after manager Mike Scioscia called his own team gathering. The following afternoon, they only fell further, with Zack Greinke adding to the rotation's befuddling struggles to quickly sink an Angels team that went through the series finale looking listless and deflated.

Can you blame them?

They're 5-13 in August, 14-22 in the second half and two games above .500 for the season -- the fewest they've been above that mark since June 9. With 40 games left, the Angels are nine games in back of the Rangers in the American League West (their largest deficit since April 30) and 4 1/2 off the pace for the final Wild Card spot (with three teams to jump).

Against the Rays, winners of 11 of their last 13, the Angels have dropped 12 of their last 13.

"They kicked our butts," Scioscia said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance in any ballgame except the one yesterday. And those guys took it to us. That'll happen when you're not at a level you should be. There are times during the season when you don't think you're going to lose another game, and there are times during the season where you don't know if you're going to win another game. Right now, we're at the latter."

Greinke gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings, putting his ERA at 6.19 in five starts since joining the Angels. The pending free agent has given up at least four earned runs in four straight starts for the first time in his career.

Greinke gave up four runs in the second, then a two-run shot to Ryan Roberts in the fifth. As a whole, the Angels' pitching staff has allowed at least one home run in 17 of 18 games this month. Over their past 19, they've allowed at least four runs in an inning 13 times.

The rotation ERA this month: 6.53.

Greinke could only speak for himself, though.

"It's been a very embarrassing first month [with the Angels]," Greinke said. "I'm getting paid a lot to do better than I'm doing. It's pretty awful.

"I don't know what it is, but it's not good. It's not acceptable, really."

Down early, the Angels' offense did little. Mike Trout hit a solo homer to right field in the fourth, giving him 24 on the year and 16 since the start of July. Albert Pujols did the same to left field in the sixth, hitting his 28th on the year and the 473rd of his career -- tying him with Carlos Delgado for 30th on the all-time list.

But that's all Matt Moore would give up in 6 1/3 innings. After that, the Rays' bullpen -- the same one that pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings to cap Saturday's improbable comeback -- allowed just one run the rest of the way.

Just before arriving in Anaheim, the Rays had a perfect game thrown against them, courtesy of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.

They left with a franchise record for runs in a four-game set (37) and their first ever sweep of the Angels in a series of that length.

"Like I said yesterday after the game, three out of four would have been huge," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "And we come in and continue with the momentum; continue swinging the bats like we did the last four or five innings last night. It's pretty cool to see."

Hunter, part of the 2006 Twins team that won its division despite trailing by 8 1/2 games on Aug. 17, admits he looks at the standings a lot more now than he did earlier. He has to. Time is running out.

"I've seen miracles happen," Hunter said. "I'm just waiting for that miracle."

But this team was never supposed to need a miracle.

"The way we're playing, I'm disappointed," the veteran outfielder added. "I'm pretty sure everybody in here is disappointed, fans are disappointed. But that's baseball. There's not one guy in here who's not playing his butt off, playing hard. Baseball is a different game. It's not like basketball, it's not like football. It's a different game."

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