SAN DIEGO -- Eighteen times this season, the Angels have gone into the final two innings of a game with a deficit, and not once have they been able to turn it into a victory. It happened again on Saturday night, when the Padres took a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh and the Angels failed to capitalize despite having a runner in scoring position in each of the next two frames.The hallmark of a great team, many will say, is its ability to come from behind. The Angels aren't a great team yet -- and it's not just their 18-23 record that would indicate that. "It's still kind of early," Howie Kendrick said after his club's 3-2 loss at Petco Park, "but at the same time, too, as a team, you have to try to capitalize on those types of opportunities." The Angels once again couldn't, no matter which reliever the Padres trotted out. They couldn't in the seventh, when Mike Trout lined out hard to left field off Luke Gregerson with two outs and a runner on second to keep the game tied. They couldn't in the eighth, when Mark Trumbo and Kendrick each struck out against Andrew Cashner after a one-out single and stolen base from Albert Pujols. And they couldn't in the ninth, when Ryan Langerhans struck out looking to end the game against Dale Thayer, with Erick Aybar waiting on third base. "You just have to get in there and find a way to get the job done," Langerhans said, "and unfortunately I wasn't able to." Hard to blame Langerhans, who was called up Monday to take the place of Torii Hunter (restricted list) and was making his first plate appearance with the Angels six days later. On the bench, the Angels had Vernon Wells, who was batting .348 over his last six games, but manager Mike Scioscia brought in Langerhans as a defensive replacement in the eighth and kept him in there for the final at-bat. Asked about the decision, Scioscia said he liked the matchup of a lefty hitter and a right-handed pitcher, and that Langerhans "had been swinging the bat well," even though he hadn't swung it in a game in almost a week. Langerhans had five hits in his last 28 at-bats in Triple-A before the callup. "He's still swinging every day," Scioscia said. "He started off slow in Triple-A, but he's really come on and swung the bat well. If there was a left-handed pitcher, we obviously might've considered using Vernon." The Angels mustered only six hits -- four of which came from Aybar, who finished a homer short of the cycle -- and the club went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, handing Dan Haren his fourth consecutive loss despite giving up three runs on six hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings. Haren, whose previous three starts coincided with Angels shutouts, is now 1-5 with a 4.37 ERA. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win games," Haren said. "I'm frustrated to be sitting at 1-5. I'm not happy about it, and the team's not happy with where we're at." In the seventh, former Angels infielder Alexi Amarista -- dealt in exchange for reliever Ernesto Frieri a couple of weeks ago -- put the Padres ahead with an RBI single, and the Angels simply couldn't find a way to crawl back. In the eighth, after Pujols voluntarily stole his first base of the season, Cashner struck out Kendrick, moving him to 1-for-22 over his last seven games and 5-for-31 with runners in scoring position. "I've had a lot of opportunities late in games, but I just haven't been able to put the ball in play," Kendrick said. "I think that's all it comes down to. You have to battle, have good at-bats and just try to get something in play and put pressure on the defense." It looked like the Angels would have a spark for the top of the ninth. When Mike Trout made a diving catch in center field to end the bottom of the eighth, leaving two runners stranded and saving Jordan Walden a couple of earned runs, it looked like the Angels would be able to ride that momentum toward their first late comeback. But it never materialized. Aybar reached base with one out on a swinging bunt, then stole second and advanced to third on a wild throw while Kendrys Morales struck out swinging. But Langerhans was caught looking on a 2-2 fastball. "I felt that last one might've been a little bit down," Langerhans said, "but [home-plate umpire Paul Nauert] didn't think so." And once again, the Angels couldn't come back. "We have the capability of doing that," Kendrick said, "but it's just a matter of putting together those at-bats."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.