And indeed they have, riding rookie Mike Trout and a rejuvenated Albert Pujols to their current position, eight games above .500. But the A's, one of baseball's biggest surprises, sit just a half-game out of the second Wild Card spot currently held by the Angels, heading into their showdown on Tuesday.
Few people projected that the A's would still be competitive in August, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks he knows why.
"It's funny, we just had our scout meeting, and it's a different team," Scioscia said comparing the current Oakland team with the May edition. "You have some guys that are into their game playing well, you have [Coco] Crisp back, you got [Jemile] Weeks playing at a higher level. The bullpen has obviously come together. The rotation's been terrific with a lot of new names. They're a team that's playing at a high level. They've pitched extraordinary baseball, and the bullpen has held leads, and they're obviously right in the thick of this."
Speaking before his club's 4-0 loss in the series opener Monday, A's manager Bob Melvin acknowledged the importance of the current series. But he downplayed it a bit, nonetheless.
"Any time you go back in your division, especially with where we're both in the standings right now, you want to play well," Melvin said. "It appears to be a big series, and I wouldn't argue that. But there is some time left, and we'll see them again."
Right-hander Bartolo Colon gets the ball for Melvin's A's, coming off eight shutout innings against Toronto. Colon (8-8, 3.55) is riding a scoreless streak of 16 1/3 frames that dates back to July 22.
He is opposed by left-hander C.J. Wilson (9-7, 3.27 ERA), who hasn't gotten a win in seven starts going back to late June. Wilson is coming off a particularly rough outing, where he allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings to the Rangers.
He did dominate the A's in May, however, in his lone start against them this year, throwing a one-hitter over eight shutout innings.
Angels: Aybar returns from DL
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday and went 3-for-4 in the series opener in Oakland. He batted eighth.
The fractured toe on Aybar's right foot felt good enough after a workout Monday for him to be activated the first day he was eligible. The team optioned Andrew Romine to Triple-A Salt Lake in order to clear room.
"I feel good," said Aybar, who is hitting .263 with four homers and 30 RBIs this season. "Everybody looks good here, everybody's hitting, pitching good, too. When we play together, we're good. We got everybody together."
A's: Cespedes likely to return
A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was out of the lineup for Monday's opener because of soreness in his right wrist. He sustained the injury sliding into third base on Friday against Toronto.
"We're going to try to give him a full day off today, not swinging in batting practice, and hopefully he'll feel that much better tomorrow," Melvin said before Monday's game.p> Cespedes is hitting .410 with five homers since the All-Star break. The A's are 46-29 when he starts and just 12-22 when he doesn't.
Colon has held Angels outfielder Torii Hunter to just a .236 batting average in 55 at-bats. Meanwhile, Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo is hitting .389 against Colon.
Because of Monday's 4-0 Angels victory, the A's no longer hold at least a share of a playoff spot for the first time in the last 17 days.
The season series between the two clubs is tied at five games apiece. In four of the A's five losses, they were shut out.