The Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics looked set to go down to the wire for the AL West all September. But since the Angels and Athletics had the two best records in baseball, the loser still looked like a safe bet for the postseason. Yet as of Sept. 1, Oakland hardly feels like a playoff team or division champion, after Los Angeles finished a decisive four-game sweep with an equally decisive 8-1 victory.
Before this pivotal series began on Aug. 28, the Angels were only up by one game over the Athletics. Four days later, Oakland was left in the dust, closer to being knocked out of postseason contention than to the AL West lead. Although the Athletics still lead the Seattle Mariners by 4 1/2 games for third place in the West, they are now five games back of the Angels as well.
This final blow to Oakland's legitimacy came thanks in large part to a six-run second inning from Los Angeles. The Angels didn't need any home runs or even any doubles to do it, as they drove in RBIs with two singles, two bases-loaded walks and one sacrifice ground out. Scott Kazmir didn't even get out of the second inning as a result, as he was knocked around by the Angels for the second time in over a week.
Back on Aug. 24, Los Angeles and Oakland were tied after the Athletics won the first two games of a series at home. Once the Angels knocked around Kazmir in the finale and took the AL West lead right back, they didn't look back. Now after this second straight easy win over Kazmir and the Athletics on a Sunday finale, the Angels may not come that close to giving up first place for a while, if ever.
While Kazmir never got going, Matt Shoemaker improved to 14-4 with seven innings of shut down ball. Although the Angels have to go without ace Garrett Richards the rest of the season, the pitching staff has gone on without him -- as evidenced by how the Athletics only scored four runs in this entire series.
The next showdown between Oakland and Los Angeles will be from Sept. 22-24. However, only the Athletics might be fighting for their playoff lives by then.