The Los Angeles Angels were the team on a roll before their weekend series with the Oakland Athletics. Yet the Athletics got hot again in time to take the first two games over the Angels, leaving the finale on Aug. 24 as a tiebreaker for the AL West lead. However, Oakland once again looked like the team that gave up the division lead in the first place, as Los Angeles left with it back thanks to a 9-4 victory.
The Angels' big bats came through -- even those who have struggled for a while. Josh Hamilton looked like his old self with a home run and three RBIs, while Mike Trout also got a homer and Albert Pujols contributed an RBI. The effort knocked Athletics' starter Scott Kazimir out of the game after just three-plus innings, dropping him to 14-6 overall.
Oakland got the breaks and clutch hits it needed in the past two games to lock up the AL West again. But there was no wiggle room against Los Angeles this time, as Jared Weaver kept the hosts from rallying back. He allowed three runs and eight hits through 6 2/3'rd innings, but that was more than good enough on this night.
Although the Athletics did gain a game on the Angels this weekend, they did end up right back where they started in second place. Oakland had been in first for much of the season, but a recent slide and a surge from Los Angeles had changed things before this first of two August showdowns.
The second one will come in Los Angeles from Aug. 28-31, in a four-game battle. Afterwards, the Athletics and Angels won't meet again until the start of the final week of the season, from Sept. 22-24 in Oakland. By then, both teams may be close to locking up a playoff berth -- unless they both get in a slump or another wild card contender catches fire --but the difference between winning the division and landing in the wild card game is huge.
Oakland and Los Angeles have been the best teams in baseball for much of the summer, with the unfortunate luck of being in the same division. The Athletics were the better team in this series, yet the Angels got the win that truly counted -- although this may not be the last tiebreaker game they have together.