ANAHEIM -- On their roster, the Angels have arguably the American League's top pitcher (Jered Weaver), the Most Valuable Player in baseball (Mike Trout) and the greatest hitter of this generation (Albert Pujols). And still, in a year with more opportunity than ever, they could fall short of the postseason.
That's the reality they're staring right in the face after four straight losses against the Rays and a 14-22 second half that has them nine games back in the AL West and 4 1/2 off the pace for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Going into this season, the Angels had all the hype. And for the last few weeks, manager Mike Scioscia has had to explain why they've mostly fallen below expectations.
"Those expectations that the fans and media had, believe me, are right in line with the expectations that I have and our organization has," the Angels' skipper said before Sunday's 8-3 loss. "This isn't something that we're taking lightly."
The Angels finished what was a critical 10-game homestand at 3-7, calling two team meetings in the hopes of figuring out how to get back on track.
What's fascinating about this 2012 season is how everything has flip-flopped.
As the Angels struggled through an 8-15 April, the offense ranked 24th in the Majors in runs per game (3.48), while the rotation tried to keep them afloat with a combined 3.70 ERA. In August, which the Halos have begun 5-12, the offense came into Sunday ranked fifth in the Majors in runs per game (5.29), while the rotation sported the second-highest ERA in baseball (6.36).
In 36 second-half games, the Angels' staff has contributed 15 quality starts, which has bled into an already-thin bullpen that has been statistically the worst since the All-Star break.
"I think everyone's a little frustrated; we're not playing to our capabilities," Weaver said. "Our starting staff hasn't been doing a great job, and that's usually what our team is based off -- is starting pitching. From a pitching standpoint, we haven't held up our end of the bargain, so we need to figure something out."
On Sunday, when they activated reliever Jordan Walden, the Angels were whole; a team with no players on the disabled list and all the stars who were expected to get them back into the playoffs -- at the very least -- available to contribute.
Scioscia continues to say that the issues with this team are "very tangible," pointing to the pitching problems rather than confidence or heart or momentum.
But the solutions haven't been there.
"There's a little frustration, sure," Scioscia said. "I wouldn't call it 'down.' I think the attitude in this team is terrific. Trying to temper that frustration, which can easily seep into a clubhouse when you're not where you want to be in the standings, is a challenge that we have to pay attention to."
Halos stick with Izzy, option Takahashi
ANAHEIM -- For a moment, at least, it looked like this could be the end of the road for Jason Isringhausen. Given his recent struggles, the need to create room on the roster for Jordan Walden and Isringhausen's reluctance to go down to the Minor Leagues, it looked like the Angels' corresponding move for Walden's activation could result in the end of Isringhausen's stint with the team -- and possibly his career.
Instead, the Angels optioned veteran lefty Hisanori Takahashi to Triple-A Salt Lake for the second time this season on Sunday. The move leaves them with only one lefty in the bullpen (Scott Downs), but Takahashi has had an even worse season -- posting a 4.93 ERA in 42 innings -- than Isringhausen, and sending him down allows the Angels to maximize their pitching depth.
At the latest, he'll return when rosters expand at the start of September.
"We're not going to go past 12 pitchers right now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have a day off, and we're going to be expanding in less than two weeks."
Designating Isringhausen for assignment seemed like a distinct possibility -- one the 39-year-old right-hander no doubt realized given how it's gone the last few weeks. He sported a 1.73 ERA on June 22, but has been charged with 13 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings since, putting his ERA on the year at 3.92.
Over his last three one-inning stints, Isringhausen has given up five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks.
"I've been falling behind hitters; control," he said. "Every year I hit a rough stretch, and this is my stretch of pitching poorly. It's mainly got to do with falling behind. I don't care if the hitter's hitting .200 or .350. If you get behind 2-0, and you don't throw 95, 96 [mph] anymore, you don't have the stuff to get a lot of swings and misses. So, I have to get ahead of hitters and make them hit my pitch. I know that, everybody knows that. That's the art of pitching."
In his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list, Angels right-hander Jordan Walden pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Sunday's 8-3 loss to the Rays, giving up one hit and striking out the side with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph. Walden, out since July 8 with injuries to his neck and right biceps, said that velocity "came easy" to him.
"I think it was a good workout he had a couple days ago, and that was important," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He felt good coming into the game and threw some breaking balls for strikes, which is important for him, and velocity was terrific. That's a good inning for Jordan."
Albert Pujols (28 on the year) and Mike Trout (24) each hit solo home runs for the Angels on Sunday. Since July 1, the two are tied for the Major League lead in homers, with 16. Pujols' shot gave him 473 for his career, tying him with Carlos Delgado for 30th on the all-time list. Trout's put him in a tie for fourth in Angels rookie history.
The last time the Angels were swept in a four-game series was April 21-24, 2011, against the Red Sox. Seven losses are the most for the Angels in one homestand since they lost seven on June 3-12, 2011.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.