OAKLAND -- There has been a noticeable change in the A's since Bob Melvin took over as the club's manager. He knows it and his players will admit it: The A's have a renewed sense of confidence.
That confidence helped the A's reach a season-high five-game winning streak Sunday as they downed the Giants, 2-1, in the finale of the Bay Bridge Series to complete their first sweep since May 27-29 against the Orioles and pull within five games of the lead in the American League West.
"We're just playing with a lot of energy," pitcher Trevor Cahill said. "We have more confidence now that even if we're down, we're going to come back, and if we're ahead, we're going to hold it. It's definitely nice."
That renewed confidence not only helped the A's win their fifth straight, but it helped Cahill get out of a lengthy funk. After starting the season 6-0 with a 1.72 ERA, the former All-Star dropped his last five decisions entering Sunday and struggled with command at times.
But the version of Cahill that trotted out to the mound Sunday was more reminiscent of the pitcher who dominated opposing teams earlier in the season than the one who struggled with location the last month.
Cahill hurled eight innings of one-run ball and limited the Giants to five hits on the afternoon -- and only one after the third inning -- for his first quality start since May 25. Unlike that day, though, when Cahill scattered 10 hits (including two home runs) and five walks while surrendering three earned runs, the righty was dominant against the Giants.
After fanning two in the first, Cahill hit a slight speed bump in the second, when he walked Nate Schierholtz and then gave up an RBI double to designated hitter Aaron Rowand en route to a 25-pitch frame. But Cahill remained confident and settled down after that inning.
"You could see him in the middle innings start to gain his confidence," Melvin said. "When he stops thinking about the mechanics and all the exterior things, has good thoughts and throws the ball, good things happen to him."
Cahill gave up a pair of two-out hits in the third before retiring 16 of the last 17 batters he faced, including 10 straight at one point. The righty threw a career-high 118 pitches, eclipsing his previous high of 116 he tossed twice before. He struck out seven and walked just one a start removed from walking a career-high seven and recording no strikeouts.
"Trevor has amazing movement every time he goes out there," said Landon Powell, who started at catcher Sunday. "Today he was able to get ahead in the count, which gave him the opportunity to keep on throwing his nasty pitches and kept the hitters off balance.
"I'll take him any day when he's like he is today. I'll take him against anybody."
"Anybody" includes the Giants' Matt Cain, who nearly matched Cahill pitch for pitch. After giving up a leadoff hit to Jemile Weeks in the first, Cain didn't allow another hit until the sixth, when Weeks again came up with a hit. During that span, Cain retired 14 straight at one point.
But Weeks' double, which gave him his fifth multihit game since joining the A's, changed the tone of the game. Coco Crisp followed two batters later with an RBI single to tie the game at 1 and ultimately give Cain a no-decision. The righty tossed seven innings and gave up three hits and the lone run.
It wasn't until the A's got into the Giants' bullpen that the game was decided, all thanks to one stroke of the bat from Powell. Facing reliever Jeremy Affeldt with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Powell launched his first home run of the season, and first since Sept. 18, to left-center field to give the A's a 2-1 lead.
"Was it a good pitch? Yeah," Affeldt said. "Obviously it was the wrong pitch. He hit it for a homer. But I looked at it, and honestly maybe I could have thrown it a little further away from him. ... He just got a barrel on it and lifted it."
Powell, a switch-hitter, hit the game-deciding shot while batting right-handed -- something he hasn't done in a game in more than a month.
"Getting in there from the other side of the plate, I was just trying to simplify my swing and get my foot down early ... and do some damage," Powell said. "He came at me with fastballs and I was just able to get the fat part of the bat on it and drive it."
After Powell, whom Melvin has made a point of playing more regularly since taking over as manager, put the A's ahead, Brian Fuentes came in to pitch a perfect ninth inning and record his 12th save of the season, sealing the A's fifth straight win before they embark on a six-game National League road trip.
"I would prefer not to have an off-day," Melvin said. "When you play like this, you just want to keep rolling out there every day. You just want to stay with it, stay with it and keep the positive feelings because we've been pretty good about winning games late or close. You just want to stay with it and not get down. If you stay positive some good things can happen."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.