CLEVELAND -- On his 119th and final pitch of the night, Ricky Nolasco hung a 3-2 slider to Bradley Zimmer, who crushed it off the left-field wall for a go-ahead double. Suddenly, the Indians led by one run and Nolasco's strong effort was spoiled.
It was a deflating end to an otherwise commendable outing by Nolasco, who kept his team within striking distance for 6 2/3 innings before a bullpen implosion in the eighth sent the Angels to a 10-4 loss on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
"I thought he worked around some early command issues and when he finally settled in, he got on a good run for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He maintained his stuff through a high pitch count and unfortunately couldn't get that one last out in the seventh inning. But he definitely gave us a chance to win."
One day after six Angels relievers combined to throw 7 2/3 innings, Nolasco saved the taxed bullpen by pitching into the seventh, reaching his highest pitch count since Sept. 9, 2012. He was one out away from keeping the 2-2 deadlock intact before Zimmer delivered the tiebreaking hit.
"I was trying to throw a backdoor slider," Nolasco said. "It wasn't that bad of a pitch. He put some good wood on it, and the ball was kind of carrying that way. Thought I had him there with a couple pitches before that, but that's the way it goes. He won that battle."
Nolasco, who had struggled in his last start against the Red Sox on Friday, rebounded nicely by holding the Indians to three runs on nine hits, including a leadoff home run to Zimmer, while walking two and striking out four over 6 2/3 innings.
In the third, the 34-year-old veteran had a brief injury scare after Francisco Lindor's 105-mph liner hit him squarely on his backside, though he remained in the game after being checked on by a trainer and completed his outing without issue.
Of greater concern for the Angels is the fact that they appear to be in danger of fading from postseason contention after two straight losses to the Indians. At 49-53, they now sit five games behind the streaking Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot, with four teams -- the Rays, Mariners, Twins and Rangers -- ahead of them in the standings. With four games to play until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Angels can ill afford to keep sliding.
"We have to go out there and play our game," center fielder Michael Trout said. "Once we start looking at the standings, that's when we're going to get in trouble and try to do too much. We just have to go out there and play and try to win."