SEATTLE -- The addition of a second wild-card team may improve the odds of the Angels' reaching the playoffs, but it won't ease their degree of difficulty getting there.
The Angels lost to the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, in Safeco Field on Sunday, their winning streak ending at five games when Jered Weaver gave up home runs to Jesus Montero in the fourth inning and .143-hitting Carlos Peguero in the fifth.
Though they have won nine of 12 games since Aug. 21, the Angels are 81/2 games behind first-place Texas in the American League West, 51/2 games behind Oakland for the wild-card lead and 31/2 games behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot. Tampa Bay and Detroit remain ahead of them in the wild-card race.
The Angels were 91/2 games behind Texas and four out in the wild card Aug. 20. So, they won nine of 12 games and gained one game in the division and half a game in the wild card.
"We have to keep winning, because eventually somebody has to lose," said second baseman Howie Kendrick, who drove in the team's only run with a ninth-inning single Sunday. "Whether we're gaining ground or not, if we're winning games, we know we put our best foot forward.
"If that means we miss a playoff spot by one or two games and we continue to play baseball the way we've been playing, I think you can live with yourselves. That just means those other teams played just as good."
The next 10 games, seven against Oakland and three against Detroit, could go a long way toward determining the Angels' fate.
"It's crucial," catcher Chris Iannetta said of the stretch, which begins Monday in Oakland. "You don't want it to be a make-or-break situation, but it very well can be. It could be our turning point, a defining moment."
Added slugger Albert Pujols: "Every game is like a playoff game. That's how we need to take it."
The A's are the hottest team in baseball and have outperformed the Angels on one-third of the budget. Despite a $52.8-million payroll — the Angels are spending $159 million — Oakland (76-57) has won nine consecutive games, outscoring opponents 72-22, and has won 14 of 16.
Thanks to some shrewd moves by General Manager Billy Beane, the A's have assembled a pitching staff that ranks second in the AL with a 3.41 earned-run average and has given up a league-low 114 home runs. A bullpen anchored by Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour ranks second in the majors with a 2.78 ERA.
The A's rank 13th in the league in average (.237), 12th in on-base percentage (.292) and 10th in slugging (.362), but they have eight players with 10 home runs or more, including Josh Reddick with 28, and a major league-high 13 walk-off wins.
"Their transformation has been remarkable," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've retooled. They pressure you several ways on offense, and pitching-wise, they've been terrific. Put together those ingredients, you can see why they're winning."
To beat the A's, the Angels must hit better in the clutch than they did Sunday, when they were one for 12 with runners in scoring position.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (6-3) threw 71/3 scoreless innings, and reliever Josh Kinney escaped a two-on jam when he got Mike Trout and Torii Hunter to fly out to end the eighth inning.
Weaver (16-4) remained in the game after taking a wicked Dustin Ackley liner off his right shoulder in the fifth inning but departed with one out in the sixth.
"It grazed my glove; it didn't square me up as bad as it looked," Weaver said. "It won't affect my next start."