CLEVELAND -- The Angels have had no margin for error during their early-season slide.
With the club's bats still silent, every mistake is magnified. On Sunday, one costly gaffe made all the difference, as the Halos were blanked for the fourth time this season in a 4-0 loss to the Indians in Cleveland. Los Angeles' 7-15 start is the club's worst since 1976.
"When you're playing well, you're playing at a level where you absorb whether you made an error or a ball got lost in the sun or an umpire didn't make a call," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Right now, there's a real fine line where if we're not going to score runs, how are we going to win games? There's no room for error and unfortunately we made a couple mistakes."
With two on and two out in the fifth, Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hit a high fly ball to right field. Sure-handed Torii Hunter camped under it, but lost track of the ball in the sun. It landed within reach of the nine-time Gold Glove winner, who was charged with a two-base error as a pair of Indians crossed home plate.
"I put it into a place where I saw it last and put my glove there and hoped it went in my glove," Hunter said. "It was a Hail Mary."
The mishap was Hunter's 36th career error in 16 seasons, the fewest number of errors by any outfielder with at least 4,500 total chances in Major League history.
"I wasn't shocked. I was happy," Indians skipper Manny Acta said. "It's a very tough sky and he's a Gold Glover -- great outfielder. But, the mighty sun was on our side today and we were thankful for it."
"That sun was like a heat lamp up there," Scioscia said. "It was tough."
The sun-induced mistake cast a shadow over Ervin Santana's best outing of the season and an Angels offense that has yet to get on track.
Santana, who no-hit the Indians last July 27, fell to 0-5 on the season, but he lowered his ERA nearly two points to 5.58 and didn't add to his league-high total of 10 home runs allowed.
The right-hander's bid for back-to-back no-hitters against the Tribe fizzled after leadoff hitter Michael Brantley singled to left field in the first. Santana settled in nicely, however, and departed after seven innings having yielded just the two unearned runs on seven hits.
"I feel bad. Santana pitched his butt off," Hunter said. "He's been looking for a start like that. That's the way it goes right now. I lost that game for him."
Santana had little breathing room thanks to the Angels' scuffling offense. Cleveland starter Derek Lowe stifled Los Angeles with a bevy of sinkers, as he induced 14 groundouts in his 7 2/3 innings. The Halos have scored just 11 runs in their last seven games and are 1-6 during that stretch.
Scioscia stressed that he saw improvements at the plate, despite the Angels legging out just three base hits on Sunday.
"I think today we hit the ball a lot better than it looks in that line score," Scioscia said. "If you're getting tough at-bats, you can absorb the lineouts and stuff like that. But right now, we have to scrap for everything we can get on the offensive side."
Albert Pujols' homeless streak reached a career-long 117 at-bats, including 88 this season. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout as his average dipped to .216.
"He's not swinging the same to me," Lowe said. "This game, I don't care if you're a Hall of Fame player like he is, confidence is everything in this game. When you start losing it, you start questioning yourself.
"The only thing that I've noticed is he's swinging at more pitches that he normally doesn't swing at. I've thrown him those same breaking balls before and he just watches them go by. That's the only thing that I've seen over this series, that he's a little more aggressive that he normally doesn't swing at."
Through seven innings, the Angels had just two harmless singles by designated hitter Kendrys Morales. They mounted their most serious rally in the eighth, when they loaded the bases after chasing Lowe from the game.
But Cleveland setup man Vinnie Pestano fanned second baseman Howard Kendrick with a 92-mph fastball to end the threat. The Indians tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the eighth off reliever Kevin Jepsen.
The offensive woes have negated a string of strong starts by Angels hurlers, who have tossed at least six innings in 12 of their last 13 outings, while posting a 2.62 ERA during that stretch.
"We're just trying to play the game and get a spark," Hunter said. "It's like a lighter. You flick it and flick it until the flame comes up. That's what we're trying to do."
The Angels entered Sunday's contest averaging just 3.62 runs per game, second-fewest in the American League. Despite how low the Angels have fallen in the standings, Hunter said that frustration isn't building in the clubhouse.
"I don't think you get frustrated in baseball because failure is the game," Hunter said. "If you get frustrated in baseball, you can go home. You have to have amnesia, because you're going to play tomorrow."
The veteran outfielder maintains a sunny outlook.
"It can only get better," Hunter said. "It can't stay like this forever. It's just a funk. You can't do anything about it. We're going to get out of it. We have to believe and have faith and keep working hard. We're going to get out of this."