The longer you play this game, the more you know not to overanalyze a torrid streak like the one the Angels, who won 15 of 18 games entering a critical four-game series against Oakland, were on.
"You just keep riding that bike until the wheels fall off," veteran right fielder Torii Hunter said.
The Angels didn't go flying over the handlebars and crashing to the pavement in a 3-1 loss to the Athletics on Monday night at Angel Stadium.
Dan Haren delivered another quality start, giving up three runs and four hits in 61/3 innings, 40-year-old reliever Jason Isringhausen escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh, and the Angels played a clean game defensively.
But A's starter Jarrod Parker and relievers Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour applied a firm set of brakes on a hot offense, limiting the Angels to four hits, ending their six-game win streak and dropping them 11/2 games behind Baltimore for the second American League wild-card spot with 21 games remaining.
"Right now, every game is essentially a playoff game," said Haren, who fell to 10-11. "We've lost a game or two here and there during this run. Their guy pitched a good game. It's just a matter of bouncing back. This is no time to be sulking about losses. We've got to come out tomorrow and win."
The Angels scored 102 runs in their previous 18 games, an average of 5.7 a game, and since June 1 they lead the major leagues in batting (.287), on-base percentage (.347) and slugging (.467) and rank second in home runs (121).
But Parker, a rookie right-hander, used his 95-mph fastball and superb changeup to limit the Angels to one run and three hits in seven innings, and Cook, whose fastball hits 98 mph, and Balfour closed out the wild-card-leading A's 19th win in 24 games.
The A's had won nine straight before the Angels swept a three-game series in Oakland last week, outscoring the A's 21-5. But Oakland, showing the resilience that has been a hallmark all season, bounced back to sweep Seattle over the weekend and cool the Angels on Monday night.
"They're pitching as well as anyone in our league," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said of the A's. "Their bullpen is holding leads. Defensively, they have more range in the outfield. There are a lot of things that are going in the right direction."
The Angels had one leadoff batter reach base Monday night. They put only four runners in scoring position and had one clutch hit, Hunter's third-inning double that scored Mike Trout, who walked, stole second and took third on an error.
Coco Crisp ambushed Haren early, smacking the first pitch of the game off the right-field wall for a triple and scoring on Seth Smith's groundout.
Haren retired 12 straight batters before Brandon Moss led off the fifth with a towering home run to right. Cliff Pennington homered to right-center to lead off the sixth, giving the A's a major league-leading 81 homers since the All-Star break.
"We've won some tight games when we haven't swung the bats, but we're not going to be pounding six or seven runs a night," Scioscia said. "Dan gave us a chance to win. We just didn't get the bats going."