ANAHEIM -- The encouraging signs Matt Joyce intermittently displayed in the month of June and even the beginning of July have evolved into another head-scratching, soul-crushing slump for the veteran outfielder. When Thursday's game finished -- in a 3-0 loss to the Twins -- Joyce was riding an 0-for-21 slump, his slash line down to .179/.276/.300 through 276 plate appearances of his first season with the Angels.
"When you're used to being something and being successful, and you come out in early work, stay late, put in work after, and it still doesn't show up in the game, it's obviously frustrating," Joyce said. "It's a hard game. I'm doing everything I can."
The Angels entered Thursday on a season-best seven-game winning streak, having won 17 of 20 while scoring a Major League-best 6.7 runs per game in July. They're red hot, still sporting the second-best record in the American League and finally clicking in all facets.
But the front office continues to search for a bat before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, largely because of what Joyce has yet to provide.
"It comes down to me," said Joyce, acquired from the Rays in December for hard-throwing reliever Kevin Jepsen. "It all comes back to me. You do what you have to do, and you take care of what you have to take care of, and you don't have to worry about somebody else. It's weird. It's a weird spot for me to be in. I've never really been in such a funk or a struggle for this long. I'll tell you what, it's very humbling."
Joyce, a free agent at season's end, has a track record. His OPS dropped slightly every year from 2010-14, but he still sported a .344 on-base percentage while averaging 124 games per season. The Angels brought him in with thoughts that Joyce could either bat in front of Mike Trout or behind Albert Pujols, but now, less than four months in, there are questions about whether they may release him, like they did with Raul Ibanez last June.
Joyce's last hit was July 9.
"There's no doubt that he's pressing; absolutely no doubt," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's a confident guy, and he knows what he can do. It's just not happening right now, so there's some frustration. There's not a lot, really, that you can do. We had him on the bench a little bit, we played him, between games we're trying to get him into his rhythm, he's working hard. Sometimes you just need to keep going and find it. But no doubt there's a lot of frustration."
Asked why Joyce isn't on the bench full-time, Scioscia stated the obvious: "We need to make a lineup."
The Angels don't really have any other options right now, which is why they're scouring what continues to be a limited buyers' market for offense. They're looking for lefty hitters controlled beyond this season -- Nick Markakis, Jay Bruce, Ben Revere and Adam Lind have been mentioned frequently -- but will consider a right-handed-hitting rental like Yoenis Cespedes, or a left-handed-hitting rental like Gerardo Parra.
On Friday morning, the Angels acquired Conor Gillaspie from the White Sox for cash considerations. The left-handed-hitting third baseman, who also can play first base, has hit .237 with 11 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBIs over 58 games and 173 at-bats this year.
Prior to Thursday's game, Scioscia talked about the Angels' need for depth, saying: "We are just not as deep as we were in certain times during the course of the last 15 years, or however far you want to go, with regards to some of the depth off the bench that you need."
The Angels have a backup catcher (Carlos Perez) who's in his first season in the Major Leagues and has a .246 on-base percentage in 131 plate appearances. Their backup infielder (Taylor Featherston) hadn't played above Double-A before this season and has nine hits in 69 at-bats. Right-handed-hitting outfielder Daniel Robertson has impressed while subbing for the injured Collin Cowgill (sprained right wrist), but the fourth bench spot has been a revolving door.
And then there's Joyce, still trying to find it and running out of time.
"When you're getting pitches to hit and you're not squaring them up, for me, that's just kind of a red flag," Joyce said. "I'm putting in early work, I'm putting in late work, and trying to make the adjustment. It's a grind sometimes."