SEATTLE -- An important rematch with the Los Angeles Angels awaits the A's, and they spent a very productive weekend in Seattle gearing up for it.
Sunday's 4-2 victory completed a three-game sweep of the Mariners as A's left-hander Tommy Milone notched his 12th victory to tie the Oakland single-season record for wins by a rookie.
The A's climbed back to within 31/2 games of the division-leading Texas Rangers and opened up a 11/2-game lead over Baltimore for the American League's top wild-card spot with 23 games remaining.
That sets up quite the enticing storyline as the A's begin a four-game series Monday night in Anaheim. No team in baseball is hotter than the Angels, who have won 15 of their past 18 and swept the A's at the Coliseum last week.
That the A's were able to rebound and take three straight from the Mariners did much to restore their psyche.
"It's huge," Milone said. "It gives us momentum going into their place. They did a good job coming into our place and sweeping us, but we've got momentum after this sweep."
Consider the four-game set at Angel Stadium yet another test for the A's (79-60), who have emerged as the majors' most surprising team and showed their resolve once again over the weekend.
They were rocked by Thursday's news that starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy had to undergo emergency brain surgery after being struck by a line drive Wednesday.
But they beat one of the game's toughest pitchers in Felix Hernandez on Friday to set the tone for the weekend. They have won nine straight on the road, their longest winning streak away from Oakland since they took 10 straight in August 2002, which was part of their A.L.-record 20-game overall winning streak.
"I don't think you have to do a character check on this team any more," designated hitter Jonny Gomes said. "I think we've got it figured out. We've gone through some adversity, whether it's injuries, whether it's some of our key guys getting sent out and getting traded, the issue with (suspended pitcher Bartolo) Colon ..."
The A's notched just five hits Sunday, but two swings of the bat provided enough offense. Gomes, who had been 0 for 9 with six strikeouts against Mariners starter Jason Vargas (14-10), took the lefty deep for a three-run homer in the fifth that broke a scoreless tie.
Gomes has 16 homers this season and 21 RBIs in the 28 games he's played since the All-Star break.
Seattle closed to within 3-2 with runs in the fifth and sixth, but Josh Donaldson lined a homer to left in the top of the ninth to provide a cushion.
Milone (12-10) tied his career high with 10 strikeouts over six innings. His 12 victories tie the rookie mark shared by Chris Codiroli (1983) and Joe Blanton (2005).
He also had no walks, his 14th straight start of allowing one walk or fewer, which ties Gil Heredia's Oakland record from 1999.
A's manager Bob Melvin credited rookie catcher Derek Norris with calling a great game and said Milone's effort was typical of a steady overall season.
"When he pitches in just enough, that's what opens up his off-speed stuff," Melvin said. "With his curve working the way it did today, it gets you behind his fastball and ahead of the off-speed. That's when he's at his best."
"I mean no disrespect when I say it, but on paper it's not the most intimidating team," he said. "They've got some things working, and it's an even bigger tip of the hat that they're getting it done without -- no disrespect again -- without marquee names and all that stuff. That's just good baseball, and they're finding ways to get it done."
Sort of a compliment. Sort of a shot at the same time. But A's left-hander Brett Anderson offered an equally interesting response.
"I kind of see where he's coming from," Anderson said. "You ask the random fan across the country to name some Athletics, and they're going to have to think about it or they won't be able to.
"It doesn't really matter to us because we've been winning ball games. As long as we keep winning, we can kind of brush off anything."
Sunday marked the fourth day since McCarthy had surgery to extract an epidural hematoma after he was struck by a line drive.
Ray Fosse, who has been in the radio booth this trip, will then resume his duties alongside Kuiper for the rest of the season.
A's (Jarrod Parker 9-8) at L.A. Angels (Dan Haren 10-10), 7:05 p.m. CSNCA
A.L. Wild-Card race
W L Pct. GB
A's 79 60 .568 --
Baltimore 78 62 .557 --
L.A. Angels 77 63 .550 1
Tampa Bay 77 63 .550 1
Detroit 73 66 .525 4½
Note: Top two teams earn wild-card berths.
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