DETROIT Three days ago, the A's were 21/2 games behind Texas in the American League West.
Today, they're still 21/2 games behind the Rangers. But it's safe to say that in the wake of Wednesday night's 14-4 win over the Detroit Tigers, Oakland is feeling much better about its status now than then.
Three days ago, the A's were heading into a four-game series against a Detroit team that had scored more runs and had a better ERA than any team in the American League. The Tigers had the A.L.'s best record, too.
The A's, who once had a six-game lead in the A.L. West, had lost four of five and seven of their past 11 games. Things were not going well, and Oakland fans had to worry about Detroit delivering a knockout punch.
It hasn't happened. In three games, the A's have beaten three of the better starting pitchers in the league Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister. They've outscored the Tigers 28-13 in those three games, and all of a sudden that "we're in it to win it" feeling is pervading the clubhouse again.
"All year long, it's been tough for us to score runs," right fielder Brandon Moss said. "And (the Tigers), with the pitchers they have, they are a challenge every night."
Moss led the way Wednesday with four hits, matching his career best, including two home runs and a career-best six RBIs. He was hardly alone. Oakland had seven batters with multiple hits, and Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo and the recently acquired Kurt Suzuki each had three hits.
Suzuki, picked up from Washington, was particularly impressed.
"We came in here a couple of weeks ago when I was with the Nationals," Suzuki said, "and we just got smashed."
The Nationals were outscored 16-2 in that two-game series, the kind of thing the Tigers have been doing to teams all season. But Oakland won two of three in the Bay Area in April, and now the A's have dominated this series.
The momentum is there for a sweep, but the Tigers, who lead the A.L. Central by 51/2 games, are throwing the hottest starting pitcher in the game Max Scherzer. The right-hander comes in with a 19-1 record. The A's faced him in that April series in O.co Coliseum they didn't beat him, but they got him out of the game and beat the Detroit bullpen that day.
"Tomorrow is another tough one," Moss said.
Oakland starter Dan Straily allowed 10 baserunners in six innings but allowed just one run. And Straily, who had been consistently betrayed by the Oakland offense since the All-Star break, had so many runs scored that he almost blinked and missed some.
"This is going to sound strange, but when I gave up that (third-inning) homer to Torii Hunter, I thought it was a 1-0 game," Straily said, explaining he'd been in the restroom when the three runs came home in the second, and he hadn't bothered to look at the scoreboard until the Hunter homer.
"I didn't miss any runs after that," he said with a smile.
The game marked the return of Brett Anderson, who came off the disabled list and pitched the final three innings for his first career save.
In order to get Anderson on the active roster, the A's sent Tuesday starter and winner Tommy Milone to Class-A Stockton. Milone is expected to be recalled after Sunday.