ANAHEIM – For the second day in a row Wednesday, the Oakland A’s went quietly – and quickly.
Their 3-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels finished in just 2 ½ hours. That came after Tuesday’s 3-0 loss clocked in at 2 hours, 17 minutes.
Attribute that to the excellent work of Angels starting pitchers Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas, who put the muzzle on a lineup that was immune to shutdown pitching for the better part of a month.
The A’s boarded their Seattle-bound charter Wednesday afternoon having lost consecutive games for the first time since a three-game losing streak Aug. 20-23.
“It means we’ve been playing well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said in reference to that factoid. “We faced some pretty good pitchers the last two days, and offensively we didn’t do what we had been doing.”
Indeed, the end of the A’s month-long offensive joyride was a chance to reflect on just how impressive it was. But Oakland still has business to tend to – specifically, trying to overtake Boston and gain home-field advantage through the entire playoffs.
The A’s trail Boston by 1 ½ games for the American League’s No. 1 seed pending the Red Sox’s game Wednesday night at Colorado. Regardless of that outcome, the A’s face a tall task this weekend in their final series of the regular season.
They open a three-game series Friday at Safeco Field against the Seattle Mariners, with always-tough Felix Hernandez taking the mound in the opener for the home team.
The Mariners entered Wednesday night 20 games under .500, but they’ve won 10 of 16 against the A’s this season. From a winning percentage standpoint, only Baltimore and Cleveland played Oakland tougher among A.L. teams.
“You go in there and get Felix the first day, so it’s been a team that’s matched up well against us,” Melvin said.
The A’s are still trying to clinch home-field advantage for the A.L. Divisional Series – they lead Detroit by 1 ½ games pending the Tigers’result against Minnesota on Wednesday night. But just as importantly, the A’s simply want to put the brakes on this offensive mini-skid and recapture their momentum of the past month.
Outfielder Brandon Moss didn’t sound overly concerned after the A’s mustered just one run and 10 hits combined Tuesday and Wednesday. Weaver (11-8) held them to one run over seven innings and now has a 0.41 ERA against the A’s (2 ER in 44 1/3 IP) over his last six starts against them.
“Vargas threw a good game (Tuesday),” Moss said. “Today we got Weaver and he always pitches well against us. He’s a unique pitcher. He’s tough -- there’s a reason he’s an ace.”
Dan Straily (10-8) threw well in his final start of the regular season, allowing three runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings. It was a strong final audition to make the A’s four-man postseason rotation, and though it appears he might be on the outside looking in, Straily could earn consideration for a bullpen spot.
The A’s are 17-7 in September, but Melvin thinks his hitters have shown fatigue for the first time in a while.
“It felt like we were a little bit tired the last couple of days,” Melvin said. “We had played 33 out of 34 (days). Usually, you don’t want an off day when you’re playing well, but I think (Thursday) is probably a good time for one.”
The A’s will enjoy a well-deserved day off in Seattle. Then they’ll take the field Friday knowing there’s a weekend’s worth of business to address before the postseason even arrives.