OAKLAND It couldn't last.
The A's magical ride of 19 wins in July and the best record in the majors since early June had to hit a snag, and finally did Wednesday afternoon with a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Coupled with Tuesday's 8-0 loss to the Rays, Wednesday's setback marked the first time since the end of June that the A's lost consecutive games.
It broke a string of seven consecutive series the A's had either won or split since losing the last three games of June to the Texas Rangers. And it was the first time the A's had lost a home series since dropping two of three to the Giants in late June.
What a ride it's been a .667 winning percentage since snapping a nine-game losing streak June 2.
It got the attention of the baseball community nine of the major league-leading 12 walk-off wins by the A's were earned between June 21 and July 30.
But there was no magic Wednesday on another glorious East Bay afternoon. No comebacks were in the offing and there was no cream-pie facial for the hero du jour.
Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb kept A's hitters off balance with a heavy diet of changeups and curveballs, barely breaking the 90-mph mark when he did throw a fastball.
Going into the series, you wondered why opposing pitchers would go heavy on fastballs to young, aggressive A's hitters. They were crushing them and were becoming a home-run-hitting team after being shut out 11 times by early June.
The book is out now, clearly.
On Tuesday night, Rays starter James Shields shut the A's out for the first time since June 3.
As it was in early June, the A's lineup was again full of black holes. Leadoff hitter Jemile Weeks went 0 for 3 and is batting below .200 since the All-Star break.
Seth Smith, the No. 2 hitter, went 0 for 4 to stretch his hitless streak 17 at-bats.
And Josh Reddick, the A's No. 3 hitter, went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his past 21 at-bats the longest hitless streak of his career.
Reddick in many ways has been the heart and soul of the team and its clown prince, the prankster who usually plants the cream pies on the faces of teammates when they've authored walk-off wins.
But Reddick has been hitless since crashing into a wall to make a play in Baltimore on July 27. He looked uncomfortable Wednesday and a vibrant A's team looked flat for the first time in a long time.
This game humbles everyone and the A's in their best "Bull Durham" baseball clichés for the media paid homage to that credo in postgame commentaries.
"We'll grind through it," said A's manager Bob Melvin.
"We don't look at that stuff," said A's third baseman Brandon Inge, whose fifth-inning home run was all the offense the A's could muster.
"It's weird not to have music in here," said pitcher Jarrod Parker, who lost his second consecutive start and summed it up best in a quiet A's clubhouse that was more dental office than frat house.
To be fair, the Rays are a tough matchup in general for Oakland in that Tampa's pitching staff is every bit as good. These young staffs are the class of the American League.
Rays hitters were aggressive and knowingly selective against Parker. "Guys were laying off the changeup," Parker said of the prized piece of his pitching arsenal that had brought him success but has now clearly been identified by opponents.
So what deductions can be drawn by this bump in the A's magical journey of 2012?
None. This snag will only be significant in hindsight depending on how the A's deal with it.
The Toronto Blue Jays come to town tonight for a four-game series, and then the powerful Los Angeles Angels arrive. Those games and the ones that follow will be the judge of this Oakland team and whether its wondrous July was an anomaly or a true reflection of who the A's are.
But this lost series against Tampa Bay does prove that the rest of baseball has noticed the A's for the first time in six years.
For better and worse, they won't sneak up on anyone anymore.