ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Los Angeles Angels' failure to get timely hits wasted a strong start by C.J. Wilson and resulted in another loss.
Jeremy Hellickson overcame early struggles to pitch six effective innings, Ben Zobrist homered, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Angels 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Hellickson (3-0), who held Los Angeles hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position through the second, allowed one run and five hits. Zobrist hit a solo shot off Wilson (2-2) during a two-run third.
"You can't sugarcoat that part of it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's critical to us. We need to bring that level up to support our pitching. There's a lot of situational hitting that has to be part of this club, and hopefully that's going to emerge."
Los Angeles wound up 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The Angels, 6-12 this season, have lost 6 of 8.
"I really feel like we're close ... close to breaking through," Wilson said.
Albert Pujols went 0 for 3, including two strikeouts, extending his hitless streak to 19 at-bats. The Angels' slugger has not had a hit in five consecutive starts, which is the longest stretch in his big league career, but did walk in the eighth.
Pujols, with 445 homers, has not gone deep in 18 games this season, a span of 72 at-bats.
Los Angeles got a homer from Vernon Wells. Wilson gave up two runs, six hits, two walks and struck out 11 over seven innings.
"No doubt he pitched well, gave a chance to win," Scioscia said. "He did a great job outside that one cutter he left down the middle to Zobrist."
Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead in the eighth when pinch-hitter Brandon Allen drew a two-out bases-loaded walk off Jason Isringhausen.
Fernando Rodney, the third Rays' reliever, pitched the ninth for his sixth save. The right-hander allowed an unearned run when Zobrist was charged with an error at second for misplaying Erick Aybar's grounder that allowed Torii Hunter to score with two outs.
Zobrist stopped an 0-for-17 slide on his homer and Jeff Keppinger added an RBI double in the third.
"Those two runs are on me, not on anybody else," Wilson said. "We have to be able to win 1-0, 2-0, whatever. I'm capable of pitching better than I did."
Wells cut the deficit to 2-1 on a fourth-inning homer. It ended a stretch of 55 innings that Tampa Bay had not allowed a home run.
Bobby Abreu had a leadoff double in the first, but was left stranded when Hellickson retired the next three batters, including Pujols, who hit a one-out grounder between short and third into a three-man infield defensive shift.
Hellickson also worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam during the second by striking out Chris Iannetta and getting Abreu's broken-bat grounder to third.
After Iannetta walked to start the fifth, he was then thrown out trying to steal second after Abreu struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
"When you're going to play close game, because we've pitched better, those little things are really going to count," Sciosica said. "And we didn't get it done, and those guys did enough to squeeze it out and hold on."
NOTES: Tampa Bay had four solo homers — all off Ervin Santana — in Tuesday night's 5-0 victory over Los Angeles. ... The Angels have been out-homered 23-12 this season. ... Wilson's career-high for strikeouts is 12. ... Los Angeles RHP Jerome Williams (1-1) and Rays' LHP Matt Moore (0-1) are the scheduled starters in Thursday's series finale.