No, luck is not beating two of the game's best -- and most expensive -- pitchers, as the A's did this week. After tagging C.J. Wilson for six runs (three earned) in five innings on Tuesday night, Oakland greeted Wednesday starter Zach Greinke with a four-run second inning, later storming back from a one-run deficit with five runs in the sixth off the Angels' bullpen.
In doing so, the A's extended their second-place lead over the Angels in the American League West to 1 1/2 games. Their share of a Wild Card spot is still intact with 51 games remaining in the season -- 14 of which will come against Los Angeles and Texas.
"The more results we get in this fashion the more confidence you do have," manager Bob Melvin said. "But you have to keep playing it out. The season doesn't end now. We have to keep that tenacity. We have to try to instill more confidence in ourselves going forward that we can play with good teams, and to this point we've done pretty well."
The Rangers' fate, once assured to be a division title, isn't so certain, what with a banged-up pitching staff that will be tested down the stretch. Consider it a three-team race, then, with the surprising A's -- a Major League-best 23-9 since the start of July -- very much in the mix, despite once fielding a team that lost nine in a row.
"You go back and look at our nine-game losing streak early, and we never quit on each other, even then," said closer Ryan Cook, who surrendered two runs in the ninth but walked away with the save. "Once things looked up from there, it was 'OK, now we go.' Every good team, I think, goes through that. You kind of see who you are. You see what you're all about and when you rise above it like that, you know you're doing it for everybody.
"It's chemistry, man."
And a lot of good pitching. Pitching is what's driven the A's here, yet the offense has served as quite the supporting cast.
A's righty Dan Straily needed help Wednesday, after losing four-run lead by giving up five -- all via the homer -- in just 4 2/3 innings. The rookie, making just his second big league start, tallied three consecutive strikeouts -- against Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols, no less -- to start the game, before offering up the first of four home runs on the day in the second.
Kendrys Morales collected two of them, his second-inning shot of the solo type but his fifth-inning go-ahead blast responsible for two runs. Chris Iannetta and Hunter also added solo shots, as the Angels lent some much-needed help to Greinke, who walked five in a four-run second frame that was highlighted by a two-run homer from George Kottaras, his first with the A's and first off former teammate Greinke.
"I told the guys to not be overly aggressive and work him into hitters' counts," Kottaras said. "Anyone can say that about any pitcher, but I emphasized that he really likes to attack his hitters, especially when he gets ahead. He got shy with his fastball, and being a pitcher out there is a lot of feel, and if you're not feeling it with a pitch, you gotta go to one you think you can be effective with."
Chris Carter also hit a two-run long ball -- his 10th of the season -- in a five-run sixth off LaTroy Hawkins that also featured an RBI double from Coco Crisp and a two-run base hit off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.
The A's now have 123 homers on the year, which is already their most in a season since 2009, when they compiled 135. Power in their bats aside, much is coming from resiliency.
"I had more confidence today and felt I had better stuff, I just made way too many mistakes and paid for them," Straily said. "But our offense decided to put up nine runs, and that's a team win right there. I've started two games, and we got two wins on those days. It's definitely a lot of fun to watch."
"I feel like when the game is tied or close late in the game, we're going to win every game," Carter said. "Someone's going to come through."