Following a 12-inning, walk-off defeat against the Blue Jays, the Angels are three back of the Wild Card-leading Red Sox and five behind the division-leading Rangers with six games to go. Even if the Angels sweep the A's, the Rangers could clinch the division this weekend by taking two of three at home against the Mariners.
"Once we leave the locker room, with a long flight home, we're not going to think much about it," Howard Kendrick said. "You do that sitting here after the game, thinking about things you could have done. All we can do is play the game and play well. We've got another game tomorrow. We have to come out and take a couple from Oakland."
Fortunately for the Halos, they will have the right man on the mound to keep them afloat Friday against Oakland: right-hander Jered Weaver. So will the A's, however, as they start Gio Gonzalez.
Weaver has enjoyed tremendous success this season against the A's, and Gonzalez has also fared extremely well against the Angels. Both are coming off strong starts resulting in wins, meaning Friday's showdown at Angel Stadium has all the makings of a pitchers' duel.
"We're going to start to design some things for Oakland on the flight home. We're not looking back," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're in this. We need to play every pitch, win every pitch. Hopefully that adds up to winning games."
Gonzalez, making his second-to-last start of the season, is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts against the Angels this season. And he can enter this matchup with plenty of confidence, having gone 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA over his last six starts following an 0-5 stretch that included a 7.90 ERA and .304 opponents' batting average. That includes a seven-inning outing in which he allowed only one run despite struggling to find the strike zone early in the count.
But Weaver has been even better against the A's this year, going 3-0 in four starts with a 1.21 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .241 opponents' average. And Weaver will be back to his normal routine after pitching six strong innings on three days' rest in Sunday's win over the Orioles.
With two more scheduled starts, Weaver has a chance to become the seventh 20-game winner in Angels history. He has allowed one or no runs in 19 of his 32 starts this season. The last Major League pitcher to allow no more than one run in at least 60 percent of his starts in a season of at least 30 starts was Bob Gibson in 1968.
A's: Sizemore expected to return
Third baseman Scott Sizemore, battling shoulder tendinitis for the last two weeks, will likely return to the starting lineup for Friday's series opener in Anaheim after getting the day off Thursday. Eric Sogard got the start at third Thursday, but Sizemore still managed to make an impact with an RBI groundout in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter.
Rehabbing outfielder Ryan Sweeney (upper quad) took some swings off a tee Wednesday, but he has yet to hit in the cage or take part in batting practice. That makes his return this season a slim possibility with just six games remaining.
Angels: Haren expected to be ready for next start
Dan Haren was feeling better Thursday after taking a line-drive smash off his left wrist Wednesday night, and Scioscia expected the right-hander would be "good to go" for his scheduled start Monday against the Rangers. Haren was still a little sore and bruised, but he did not think that would affect his normal between-starts routine.
"It shouldn't limit anything," he said. "I'm going light in between starts this time of year anyway. I'll be fine in a day or two when it loosens up."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team in Major League history has had a rookie with 30 saves and one with 30 home runs in the same season. Jordan Walden has 31 saves this year and Mark Trumbo has 29 homers.
"Trumbo has awesome power. He's done some things you just don't see," Torii Hunter said. "He's one of the biggest reasons we're where we are."
The Angels will play their final six games at home, where they are 44-31 this season. The Angels also put together a winning road record for the sixth time in eight seasons.
The Angels have won 10 of their last 13 meetings with the A's at Angel Stadium.
The A's lead the season series with the Angels, 9-7. The Halos have not lost a season series to the A's since 2003.