ATLANTA -- It was appropriate that the A's were in different uniforms for Saturday's 4-3 loss to Atlanta, because the team currently representing Oakland looks nothing like the team in green and gold that had built up the best record in the major leagues.
It was Turn Back The Clock Night at Turner Field as the A's and the Braves put on uniforms resembling those of 1914, when the Boston Braves beat the Philadelphia A's in the World Series.
The A's came out of the game believing they'd hit the ball hard and had just been unlucky. Unlucky or not, they're .002 percentage points out of first place in the American League West after leading the division all alone since April 28.
"We had some really good at-bats off some really good pitchers at the end of the game and had nothing to show for it,'' manager Bob Melvin said. "It was literally a game of inches tonight. I thought we played well.''
That's one thing. The other is that the results were the same as they've been for much of a 7-9 August. The A's, once the owners of the most potent offense in the big leagues this season, were held to three runs or less for the 12th time in 16 games this month.
"You want that momentum,'' said catcher John Jaso, whose homer got the A's their third run in the eighth but missed a solo shot by a few feet in the first. "I can't remember the last time we got a bloop hit. You string a few of those bloop hits together and all of a sudden you've got that momentum back.''
The team with the momentum now is the Los Angeles Angels, who edged the Texas Rangers 5-4 on Saturday. The A's loss and the Angels' win give the two teams a virtual co-share of first place in the West. The Angels, who have played two fewer games, have a percentage points lead at .595 (72-49) to the A's .593 (73-50).
"We're tied?'' Jaso asked. "Whatever. (When) the A's went to the playoffs (in 2012) they weren't in first place until the last game of the season. Man, there's a lot of season left.''
The A's didn't get a great start from Sonny Gray, who is 0-4 with a 4.94 ERA in August after being 5-0 and the A.L. Pitcher of the Month in July with a 1.03 ERA. Melvin said he thought Gray threw well and that bloop hits did him in.
"His job is to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat, and he did that,'' Melvin said.
Gray said he liked the way he pitched, if not the results.
"In the first couple of innings, I felt I threw the ball well,'' Gray said. "I missed a lot of barrels. Unfortunately, the ball fell in.''
One particular teeth-gnasher was the Freddie Freeman double down the right field line just past first baseman Stephen Vogt. That drove in the game's first run in the first, and Freeman would come around to score. But "five inches to the left and it's a double play,'' Jaso said.
Gray's performance (51/3 innings, four runs) wasn't as troubling as that of the offense. The A's lumber has slumbered in August, and Saturday was just another example. Vogt and Jaso homered, but that was it from a practical standpoint.
For Melvin, though, he liked Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard and Vogt all driving the ball hard after Jaso's homer had cut the deficit to one. All were caught.
"It's one of those times you go through in a long season,'' Vogt said. "I don't think it's going to get us down. It's just a matter of getting out of it. And with (Jon) Lester going tomorrow, we have a good chance to take the last game here, have a good flight home, then get ready to go.''
The A's have 39 games left, and there's plenty of time to right the ship. But players need to step up, and now. Waiting for the Angels to slow down doesn't seem like a winning strategy.
"It's tough to go through this as a team, but I feel every team goes through it,'' Gray said. "This is our time right now. But we have a lot of good personalities in here, a lot of good people to keep us up. We've got to go out there and play with a little more confidence as a whole.''
A's (Jon Lester 13-7) at Atlanta (Mike Minor 4-8), 5:07 p.m., ESPN
The A's have struggled to find consistent offense and now sit in a virtual tie for first place in the A.L. West with the Angels after dealing slugger Yoenis Cespedes for ace Jon Lester. Here are some key A's stats since the July 31 trade:
A's stat Before After
Record 66-41 7-9
Division lead +2 --
Starters' ERA 3.32 3.46
Runs per game 5.0 3.83