In 10 of the past 12 games, the Angels' starting pitcher had recorded a quality start, but in a 7-1 loss to the Rays at Angel Stadium, Jason Vargas lasted just four-plus innings.
"Jason, like all our starters, you want to give them an opportunity to win or lose a game if they can get to a certain point, and it just got to be where in the fifth inning -- it certainly wasn't a pitch-count issue -- but it was how he was throwing the ball and it was going to be a struggle for him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The left-hander, who is now 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in five starts since returning from a lengthy DL stint, threw 80 pitches and gave up five runs on 10 hits.
The rough outing came just five days after Vargas pitched seven shutout innings against the Rays at Tropicana Field, and he said that he did not try to attack the Rays any differently.
"It's never really been a part of my game to go out of my way to do something different," Vargas said. "It was just, like I said, the inability to make quality pitches down in the strike zone, late in the count -- sometimes early -- was what got me today."
Aside from Evan Longoria's single, Vargas was perfect in the first inning but allowed a run in the second, another in the third, two in the fourth and one more in the fifth before Juan Gutierrez was summoned in relief.
James Loney singled and scored on Kelly Johnson's groundout in the second to put the Rays on the board and Desmond Jennings added another run with a homer to lead off the third.
Following the home run, the Rays had an opportunity to blow the game open as they loaded the bases with none out, but Vargas induced a 5-2-3 double play and then struck out Wil Myers to end the threat.
However, the Rays would not be deterred as Ben Zobrist's two-RBI double extended the lead to 4-1 in the next frame.
Just as Vargas' start bucked the rotation's recent trend, the offense also fell short.
After averaging five runs per game in the past 10 contests, the Angels mustered just one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings against Rays left-hander Matt Moore.
"I'm very happy I was able to get through the fifth and leave the score where it was," Moore said. "These guys did a great job playing defense and hitting the ball, so that made my job that much easier."
Erick Aybar -- who homered, tripled and drove in four runs Monday -- led off the second with a double and scored the Angels' lone run on Zobrist's throwing error.
"[Moore] did a nice job overall," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall, relatively sharp, not bad. Had a good curve and change to go with the fastball. Wanted him out there for the sixth inning, so he could get up and down six times."
Moore, who was reinstated from the DL prior to the game, was lifted in the sixth inning, but not much changed for the Angels' offense as right-hander Roberto Hernandez retired 11 straight -- seven via strikeouts -- to earn his first Major League save.