SEATTLE — It's one thing to keep talking about how the Oakland A's still own the best record in the major leagues.
While it's true that they are tops at 58-36 after Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Mariners, they're having trouble protecting it.
For most of the first three months of the season, Oakland's surge into first place in the American League West was built on equal parts offense and pitching. Lately it's been pitching or nothing, and Saturday was another example of that as the A's could do nothing with Hisashi Iwakuma.
So even though Jesse Chavez turned in a creditable showing on the mound for Oakland, the A's lost for the second consecutive night and for the third time in four games.
And now, one day ahead of the All-Star break, the A's have to wonder what's happened to their offense. In their last 14 games, Oakland is 8-6. Over the same period of time, the second-place Angels are 11-3, and the third place Mariners are 8-5.
In those 14 A's games, they've averaged just 3.4 runs. If you just count the eight wins, they were at 4.4 runs per game. But for the first 94 games of the season, wins and losses the average run production overall is 4.9. For the games before June 29, it was 5.2 runs per game.
So even in the games they've won lately, their offense is struggling to keep up. And ever so gradually the Angels are catching up. With a win over the Rangers on Saturday, the Angels are just 1-1/2 games out of first place in the American League West with the second-best record in the Majors at 56-37. The Mariners are seven back.
Against Seattle on Saturday, it was more of what the A's have seen lately, this time facing Iwakuma, a good pitcher against whom the A's had success in the past-going 4-3 against him while inflating his ERA to 4.35. His career ERA is 2.89.