OAKLAND — The Angels are dealing with their most demanding 10-game stretch of the regular season.
In hindsight, this trip to face American League West leader Texas, Central front-runner Chicago and wild-card contender Oakland could be counted as their breaking point or a defining stretch that hardened them for fiercer battle.
Sending Jered Weaver to the mound Monday was a boost to those who foresee the latter.
"We need to step up again, and that's what I'm excited about — how we keep doing that," outfielder Torii Hunter said, hours before delivering a two-run single on a two-strike, two-out pitch in the seventh inning that iced a 4-0 victory at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.
Weaver, now the only pitcher since 1950 along with Don Newcombe to start a season 15-1, struck out nine in a four-hit complete game that gave the Angels' embattled bullpen the night off.
By winning his ninth consecutive start, he also gave the Angels (59-51) a half-game lead over the Athletics (58-51) for the final wild-card spot.
Weaver said that coming out of the bullpen he told catcher Chris Iannetta he'd need to fight through not being sharp, "but then I got through those first two innings and something clicked," trimming his AL-leading earned-run average to 2.13.
The Angels' bout with blown leads and bad pitching — 43 runs allowed in the five games before Monday's — was demoralizing enough to perhaps break a lesser-willed team.
Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, however, that it's been "fun to watch" his players adhere to his edict of individualizing games rather than lump them into big road trips, big series or bad spells.
They've held leads in every game of the trip.
They answered Wednesday's hellish loss with a rally before a bullpen collapse, came back from a Friday walk-off loss in extra innings to win Saturday in Chicago before blowing another lead Sunday.
In Oakland, the road only became tougher, presenting a young, resilient team that leads the AL with 13 walk-off victories, including 10 in its previous 23 home games.
"We know we have to take it to a different level now," Hunter said. "And if we can get a sweep out of this, that'd be great."
Said Scioscia: "Weaver set the tone, and to get that after what we've been through is a big lift for the guys."
The Angels will play 29 of 44 games at home beginning Friday.
Monday, they got four hits the A's Jarrod Parker (7-6) in the second inning.
Kendrys Morales doubled high off the right-field wall to start the frame. With two outs, Erick Aybar lined a run-scoring single on the first pitch he'd seen since coming off the disabled list Monday. He'd suffered a fractured right big toe July 21.
Chris Iannetta then singled to right, and Mike Trout knocked in Aybar for a 2-0 lead with a single to right.
Trout, who'll turn 21 on Tuesday, stole three bases and Aybar had three hits.