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LAA@TB: Wells drives a solo home run over the wall

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Angels can only hope this is bottom.

If so, at least time would be on their side.

In falling to the Rays, 3-2, on Wednesday night, they suffered three straight losses for the third time this season, moved to six games below .500 through their first 18 games and watched as their offense -- most notably their new first baseman -- continued some head-scratching struggles.

"We're just going through the motions right now," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "We need to go out there and do what we're supposed to do, what we're capable of doing. That's everybody. Not just players."

The Angels, 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position one night after getting dealt a shutout by David Price, have now lost six of their last eight games and have mustered just four runs through their last 28 innings.

And because of that, C.J. Wilson, who continued his solid start to the season with seven innings of two-run ball, was the tough-luck loser on Wednesday.

"To paraphrase a guy I used to play for, 'That's the way baseball go,'" Wilson said, channeling his inner Ron Washington, manager of the Rangers. "I genuinely feel like we're close to breaking through. We keep putting runners on base, and it's just a matter of time before somebody comes up with the big hit."

Against Jeremy Hellickson, nobody did -- and it wasn't for lack of chances.

Four of the Angels' first five innings began with a baserunner, and none of those ended with a run. In the first and second, an Angels team that came in with a .252 batting average with runners in scoring position went 0-for-6 in that situation and left four runners stranded. In the third and fifth, an Angels team that had picked up just one steal in the last eight games saw the leadoff runner get thrown out trying to swipe second base.

In the fourth, the Angels got a homer by Vernon Wells, his fourth on the year -- double what any of his teammates has -- and the second homer the team has hit in the last seven games.

"Right now it seems like we need that one spark," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who used his 16th different lineup of the year. "Our focus is getting this club together to play and start working towards its potential. We have to circle the wagons. We have to get better at some things, and we will."

Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk, making him hitless in 19 straight at-bats for the first time in his career, extending his career-high homerless streak to start a season to 72 at-bats and going nine straight starts without an RBI (his longest streak since 2010, according to the Elias Sports Bureau).

While facing 11 starting pitchers he had never seen before this season, Pujols is batting .222, with four RBIs, six walks and 11 strikeouts.

"It's different for him," Hunter said. "Everything is different. This league is different, the pitchers are different. ... I can't say that's the main reason, but everything is different. And he's going to get used to it."

The Angels' start ties their slowest in club history through 18 games, though the 2002 World Series team also started that way.

They previously dropped their first four series for the first time in club history, and now have dropped five of six. They now trail Texas by 8 1/2 games in the American League West.

"It's early," Hunter said. "Things can change. We just have to believe that it's going to change."

Wilson, the former Rangers ace, is now 2-2 despite posting a 2.42 ERA through his first four outings and putting together another solid start on Wednesday, giving up only a solo homer to Zobrist -- his first hit in 17 at-bats, and the Rays' fifth homer in the first two games of this series -- and an RBI double to Jeff Keppinger in a 31-pitch third inning.

Wilson has given up five earned runs in 13 innings through his last two starts, and has wound up with two losses.

"You can't cry about what you don't have," Wilson said. "You have to be realistic, and right now, in all facets of the game, there's something we can improve on as a team. And I think that's the way I look at it."

Despite the missed opportunities, the Angels still had the go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the ninth against former reliever Fernando Rodney.

With the score 3-1 after Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen walked in a run in the eighth, Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist bobbled a two-out Erick Aybar grounder that brought home Hunter. But pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo flied out to left field on the next pitch to end the game.

Scioscia had right-handed-hitting slugger Mark Trumbo (who had never faced Rodney) waiting on his bench, but opted to go with the switch-hitting Callaspo (1-for-5 with a walk against him).

"[Callaspo] had faced him, and it was a position where we felt at some point Erick would be able to steal second, and if he does, you're looking for a single to tie that up," Scioscia said. "The situation obviously didn't materialize."

And now Rodney, who struggled in two seasons with the Angels, has as many saves (six) as his former team has wins. Comments