ANAHEIM -- Their relievers gave up two runs on a couple of slow grounders, their leadoff hitter stranded three runners on a questionable strikeout call and their ninth-inning rally was thwarted by a remarkable catch. And so the Angels, doing everything they can against arguably the game's two greatest pitchers, lost again to the Dodgers on Tuesday night, 6-4, to fall 4 1/2 back of the final playoff spot with 24 games left.
"Baseball's tough, man," Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said in Spanish. "You want to do things right to win the game, but nothing is going our way right now. Everything we do is bad. Everything."
Games like these happen all the time. Slow rollers, like the ones A.J. Ellis and Carl Crawford produced in the top of the sixth, sometimes score runs. Close calls, like the one that went against Kole Calhoun with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, sometimes go the other way. And highlight-reel plays, like the sprawling catch Adrian Gonzalez made to save an errant throw in the ninth, sometimes derail rallies.
But the Angels have put themselves in a position where they matter too much.
They lost 19 games amid a favorable schedule in August, dropped five of nine against inferior competition on their latest road trip. So then they had to beat Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on back-to-back nights, and run through an army of playoff-bound teams down the stretch, and hope that a lot of these little breaks go their way.
And they just aren't.
"It's tough, man," Calhoun said. "We want to win every game right now. We're in the chase, and all these games are big games, every single one of them going forward."
The Angels have lost eight straight to the Dodgers, the longest Freeway Series losing streak by either team, and are 69-69, back at .500 for the 21st time this season. Their remaining eight opponents entered the week a combined 22 games over .500. The Rangers, the team the Angels are chasing for the second American League Wild Card spot, will face opponents who entered the week a combined 36 games under .500.
The Angels scored three runs on seven hits in six innings against Greinke on Monday and made Kershaw work hard in the seventh inning on Tuesday, but it didn't matter.
"We still lost," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "so I'm not going to put a lot of thought into how we fared. We lost two ballgames. We know what we're up against. We have to come out tomorrow, clean the slate and build some momentum. That's what we have to do."
Trailing by five in the bottom of the seventh, the Angels loaded the bases on two errors by rookie shortstop Corey Seager, plated a run on a balk by Kershaw and loaded the bases again when No. 9 hitter Taylor Featherston drew a walk. But Calhoun, who homered in the first and ripped a single in the third, tried to check his swing on a two-strike fastball in the dirt and got rung up by third-base umpire Tripp Gibson, a call that got Scioscia ejected.
"I didn't think I went," Calhoun said, "but that's what he called."
Trailing by four in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels threatened again, starting the inning with back-to-back doubles by Aybar and David Freese to bring Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen into the game. Two batters later, after a groundout and a walk, pinch-hitter David DeJesus hit a low roller up the middle. Second baseman Chase Utley rounded it and threw well wide of first, but Gonzalez somehow caught it and somehow kept his foot on the base, a game-saving play that replay confirmed.
The next batter, Calhoun, struck out.
"A big loss," is what Calhoun called it. "All these games are big."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.