ANAHEIM The A's lost their first road game in three weeks Thursday afternoon, but they had to return home happy with how they have set themselves up for a challenging final stretch.
The A's mustered little against American League Cy Young Award candidate Jered Weaver in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The loss snapped their 12-game road winning streak, which was tied for the longest in Oakland history.
But that was merely a sour ending to an otherwise sparkling 6-1 trip in which the A's swept the Seattle Mariners and took three of four from the Angels, who had won 15 of their previous 18 games coming in.
Though the A's are standing by their "one-series-at-a-time" philosophy, they have positioned themselves well for their final 19 games of the regular season.
They host the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game homestand starting tonight. The A's hold the A.L.'s top wild-card spot by one game over the Orioles and New York Yankees, who share the A.L. East lead. The A's also lead the Angels by 41/2 games and the Tampa Bay Rays by five games for the second wild-card spot.
"The last four games here, we set ourselves up nice," said left-hander Brett Anderson, who suffered his first loss of the season Thursday. "We've got a big home series against Baltimore and then a tough road trip. But I like the way we're playing."
Nailing down that top wild-card spot would be huge, because it means the A's (82-61) would host the play-in game against the second wild card for the right to advance to the A.L. Division Series. That's more appealing than potentially flying across the country to play one do-or-die game.
They did well in Anaheim to gain two games on the Angels. If you view Los Angeles as the A's top threat to grabbing one of the two wild-card spots, based on the current standings, consider this: Were the A's to go 10-9 in their remaining games, the Angels would have to finish 14-4 just to tie them.
Of course, lots can change over the final three weeks.
After the A's host the Orioles who have surprised everyone, much like Oakland the A's embark on a 10-game trip to Detroit (75-67), New York (81-62) and Texas (85-58).
But considering the A's trail Texas by just three games in the A.L. West, outfielder Jonny Gomes said his team still has to set its sights high.
"There was a lot of talk about trying to get to .500 earlier in the year," Gomes said. "We're not trying to finish at .500, you know? With (19) games left, we're not trying to win the wild card. We're trying to get to first."
The A's hope to have left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes for their entire quest. Cespedes left the game in the fifth inning after spraining his right wrist sliding into second base. It's the same wrist that Cespedes sprained in early August he missed just one game and A's manager Bob Melvin said the belief is this injury isn't as bad as that one.
The A's missed out on completing an undefeated trip of six or more games for the third time in Oakland history. They got just two hits in seven innings off Weaver (17-4).
Anderson (4-1) engaged Weaver in a scoreless duel until the bottom of the seventh, when Torii Hunter went the other way with a two-seam fastball and cleared the right-field wall. That opened the gates to a six-run inning.