The Angels came from behind to beat the A's 6-5 yesterday. They have now taken two straight in the series and are within one game of Oakland and first place in the AL West. They did it with 7 hits and 4 RBI from the bottom three hitters in the order. The bottom four spots in the Oakland lineup produced zero hits on the night. Even worse, Oakland starter Corey Lidle has returned to earth with 2 poor starts after a near-perfect August. Anaheim starter John Lackey was even worse but the A's couldn't touch the Angel relievers, who except for one hit batsmen were perfect for the final 4-2/3 innings.
They finish the series tonight in an apparent mismatch between the A's Mark Mulder and the Angels' rookie Mickey Callaway and then start another four-game series in Oakland on Monday. They also have identical schedules the rest of the way: each has 6 games with both Texas and Seattle, 3 at home and 3 away. It sounds like the perfect pennant race.
The only problem is that it's becoming more clear with each day that whoever loses will automatically get the wild card. Currently, the M's trail by 6 and the Red Sox 7.5 in the wild card hunt and neither team seems ready to mount a major offensive against the A's-Angels loser. The best-case scenario for Seattle's wild card bid would be for the A's to win all of their remaining games with Anaheim, allowing Seattle to gain up to 5 games in the wild card hunt, which could easily be made up by Seattle's head-to-head contests with the Angels. Of course, Seattle still has an outside chance to win the division if, say, Anaheim takes 3 of their 5 games with Oakland pulling to within a half-game and allowing Seattle to gain three, and then Seattle takes all or most of their head-to-head games with each team.
The M's last year could compete here, but it's becoming clear that this is not the same type of team. If Seattle and Boston continue their second half swoons, this great pennant race may be downgraded to merely obtaining division bragging rights. Damn the wild card to Hell.