That it is the Angels chasing the A's this late in the season comes as a surprise, given preseason expectations stemming from an offseason that saw the Angels make a splash by signing Albert Pujols, and the A's trade away more proven big league talent, just like they did with current Angels starter Dan Haren.
But now, five seasons after Haren lasted started a game for Oakland, the right-hander struggles with inconsistency and his worst ERA since he appeared in 14 games for St. Louis in 2004.
And while Oakland routinely produces All-Star starters before trading them away, former top prospect Brandon McCarthy resurrected his career with Oakland. He faces off against Haren in Wednesday's finale, hoping to avoid a sweep in his sixth start after a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness.
"It's not easy to do what he has to do, especially this time knowing he has to be good right away," A's manager Bob Melvin said of McCarthy's return from the DL and insertion into a playoff race. "I think if anyone can handle it, he can."
Early indications are that Melvin is right. McCarthy has a 4.60 ERA since returning from injury, but that number is skewed by a 3 1/3-inning outing against Minnesota, which chased him after scoring six runs. Other than that, McCarthy was 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five August starts.
This is his first start against an American League West opponent, though, but he did hold fellow Wild Card contender Tampa Bay to two runs in seven innings in a recent start.
"This is like a playoff game for us," said Angels outfielder Vernon Wells. "When you're playing the team ahead of you, it's your best chance to make up ground. We know what's at stake, and each and every day we're going to look forward to it "
Angels: Trout chases Ichiro's record from '01
Mike Trout went 2-for-5 with an RBI Tuesday in the early stages of his chase for a fifth consecutive AL Rookie of the Month honor. Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Trout won the award for August, his fourth consecutive month and most since '01, when Ichiro Suzuki won five in his first season with Seattle.
Trout is 5-for-18 in September after hitting .284 in August with seven homers, 19 RBIs, 26 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. His .284 average marked the first month he hit below .300 this season.
He won the AL rookie award every month except April, when he had only 11 at-bats after his April 28 promotion. Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish won instead.
A's: Miller rejoins bullpen for fifth time
Jim Miller pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed two runs, one earned, in his return to the big leagues Tuesday. The A's recalled the right-hander for his fifth stint with Oakland at the conclusion of Class A Stockton's season.
He walked two batters and both scored in Oakland's 6-1 loss. He boasted a 2.02 ERA in 35 2/3 innings over his first 25 appearances with the A's this season.
Miller did not pitch for Stockton in his brief stretch with Class A, but had a 2.79 ERA in 16 appearances earlier this season with Triple-A Scranton.
"He's a guy that contributed over the course of a season," Melvin said.
Pujols went 2-for-5 Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He is hitting .369 (24-for-65) in his past 16 games with five homers and 15 RBIs. He needs one more home run to become the first player to hit 30-plus home runs in each of his first 12 big league seasons. Only Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx hit 30-plus homers over 12 or more consecutive seasons at any point in their career.
Brandon Moss hit a solo home run Tuesday to give him a .379 (11-for-29) average with two doubles, four home runs, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs in his past eight games.