HOUSTON -- Angels starter Matt Shoemaker has pitched about as well as anybody in the game over these last five weeks. He has 62 strikeouts against only four walks in 51 2/3 innings. He has allowed 12 earned runs over a span of seven starts. He has completed at least seven innings six separate times.
The Angels' 3-2 loss in the series finale in Houston on Wednesday followed the script from almost every other Shoemaker start since around the middle of May. He dominated throughout, but received very little support from his offense and gave up the game late. The 29-year-old has a 2.09 ERA since May 21, but he's also 1-3.
"Wins are great, but we need to win," said Shoemaker, who has seen his ERA drop from 8.49 to 4.43 during his run. "Team wins."
The Angels were swept in the three-game series from Minute Maid Park, falling behind early on Monday and missing out on too many run-scoring opportunities over the next two days. They're 7-13 in June and 31-41 overall, and by the time they boarded their flights back home, they sat 15 games out of first place in the American League West.
Only one team, the eventual World Series-champion Boston Braves in 1914, has recovered from a 15-game deficit in the division to reach the postseason.
"There's a lot of games to go," Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "You can only take it one game at a time. We start going on a good run, and other teams start not playing that great, you never know what happens."
Shoemaker made only one mistake to a red-hot Houston lineup through the first seven innings -- on a sixth-inning, 3-2, middle-away slider to Jose Altuve, who lifted it a projected 403 feet to left-center field for a solo home run.
Shoemaker then took the ball for the eighth -- even though he had already thrown 95 pitches and was due to face the Astros a fourth time through the order -- because he recorded two swinging strikeouts in the prior inning and because he remained the Angels' best option.
The Astros recorded three straight hits, one of them a run-scoring triple to deep center field by Marwin Gonzalez, and that was basically enough for Shoemaker to suffer his eighth loss this season.
The bearded right-hander put it on himself, saying, "I just have to find a way to get through that eighth inning, give us a chance."
But the offense didn't give him any margin for error.
The Angels -- without Albert Pujols, who sat out his second consecutive game with a balky left hamstring -- went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, one day after finishing 1-for-7. They had a runner on second with none out in the second and didn't score. They had two on with none out in the third and couldn't plate an additional run. They got a leadoff double by Kole Calhoun in the fifth, but the middle of the order didn't hit the ball out of the infield. And in the end, they stranded 10 baserunners.
"Not a good feeling," Simmons said. "We have to do better."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shoemaker's current run is "the exact opposite of what happened for him in 2014," because his dominance was aided by an offense that scored more runs than anyone and helped him win 16 games.
Shoemaker has the seventh-lowest run support in the Majors this year, and it's been a lot worse lately.
"He's pitching extraordinary baseball, and we just haven't given him the run support," Scioscia said. "But I think that also highlights how well he's pitching, that he's pitching so deep into games in close games, without the support that would allow him to relax and make some pitches."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.