ANAHEIM -- In some ways, Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners was fairly easy to dismiss.
On your best night, you're going to have a hard time beating Felix Hernandez. The Angels' defense has been sharp all year -- occasionally brilliant -- so the four errors they made were more of an aberration than a pattern.
But when you're in a chasing position, to allow yourself to slip is never a good idea and always suggests darker things to come. The Angels now trail Texas by 3 1/2 games with 20 left to play. That's a significantly different task than trailing them by 2 1/2 games with 21 left. Moods can change inning by inning in September.
Ervin Santana was both part of the problem -- he booted one of the Angels' two errors that led to a run -- and its victim. Santana needed 110 pitches to get through six trying innings and had to swallow his second loss since the middle of June without allowing an earned run.
"Sometimes, we make a lot of errors and we do a good job of hitting. Today, we didn't do anything defensively or offensively," Santana said. "What can you say? We did our best to win the game."
This race has had a way of lingering, so the Angels really have never had any reason to panic. They looked dead on Aug. 17, seven games back, but cut it to two in a week. They looked in trouble just a few days ago when it grew to 4 1/2, but they lopped off two games in the next three days.
Until Texas finds a way to punish them for their mistakes, will the Angels ever view this thing with a sense of urgency? Would it matter?
"We're in this thing. It certainly didn't eliminate us tonight," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Any time you're losing ground, though, the challenge gets a little steeper, but we can be looking here in three, four games and be right where we want to be. The issue is coming out here tomorrow and playing well enough to get a win."
Each time Scioscia has to say that is another day with nothing accomplished.