Monday afternoon, the Oakland Athletics had everything going for them.
Momentum? They'd won nine straight games.
Standings? They sat atop the Wild Card standings, and were 5½ games ahead of Anaheim's Los Angeles Angels. Which seemed particularly relevant because the A's were about to host the Angels in a three-game series. Take two of three, or sweep, and the A's could practically forget about the Angels down the stretch.
Instead, the Angels swept the A's, with Oakland scoring only five runs in the series.
Monday's opener wasn't close, as rookie Tommy Milone lasted only three innings and the Angels won, 8-3.
Tuesday, A's rookie Jarrod Parker fared better, allowing only two runs in seven innings. But Oakland's bullpen didn't do nearly as well, while Zack Greinke and a pair of Anaheim relievers held the A's down. Final: Angels 6, Athletics 1.
Wednesday's matinée might have been the worst of all for the A's. In the fourth inning, with the A's already trailing 3-1, Erick Aybar rifled a line drive up the middle, and the ball caromed off Brandon McCarthy's head, with enough force that third baseman Josh Donaldson was able to corral the baseball in time to throw out Aybar at first base.
McCarthy never lost consciousness and eventually walked off the field under his own power. Erstwhile starter Travis Blackley replaced McCarthy and tossed three shutout innings, but the Angels scored four runs in the ninth. Neither of those things mattered because the A's didn't score again. Dan Haren pitched six strong innings, and the bullpen took it from there. In the seventh, Garrett Richards got into a jam, with A's on first and third with just one out. But left-hander Nick Maronde, in his just his second major-league appearance, replaced Richards and struck out Coco Crisp and Seth Smith to snuff out the rally. The final score: Angels 7, Athletics 1.
The A's are still in the thick of the Wild Card chase, but now the long list of their serious competitors definitely includes the Angels.