OAKLAND -- The critics have piled on in the wake of Garrett Richards' season-ending knee injury, proclaiming the Angels finished because their rotation is no longer good enough and their deep bullpen can't carry them. But on Sunday, in the twilight hours of a sold-out O.co Coliseum and in front of a national-TV audience, the Halos reminded us all why they may still persevere:
Their lineup is fierce, and Jered Weaver is no slouch.
The finale of this much-hyped weekend series painted that picture, with the offense amassing 11 hits in the first four innings and Weaver breezing through the first six frames in a 9-4 rout of the A's. After frustrating, nail-biting losses on Friday and Saturday, the Angels had cruised to their first victory in six games in Oakland this season, finishing their 10-game road trip with seven wins and pushing them 25 games above .500.
The Angels now hold a one-game lead on the A's for first place in the American League West -- not to mention the best record in baseball -- and exactly five weeks remain in the regular season.
"It was a tough blow losing Garrett, but we have to find a way to win regardless," Weaver said after moving to 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA in his last six starts at O.co Coliseum. "We're going to keep pushing, and keep having these guys step up and throw the ball well in place of him. We wish we still had him. He was our guy, and had been throwing the ball well all year. But this team's resilient. We're never going to give up, regardless of what's going on. It showed tonight."
A's starter Scott Kazmir entered with 14 wins and a 2.73 ERA, but the Angels forced him out of the game after recording just nine outs.
Said Kazmir: "I hit maybe one spot the entire game."
The Angels, desperate for some offensive momentum since the second half began, had the leadoff hitter on in each of the first six innings, got 12 hits and two walks from the first 23 batters, built an 8-0 lead through the first four frames and finished with a new game high in runs since the All-Star break.
"We've kind of been taking it easy the last two days," leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun said. "We were bound to break out at some point."
Calhoun had three hits, Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols each had a couple, Chris Iannetta reached three times and two of the Angels' biggest stars showed some much-needed positive signs.
Josh Hamilton hit a line-drive single in the second, turned an inside fastball into his 10th home run in the third and added a sacrifice fly in the fourth, making him 6-for-19 with eight RBIs since taking two days off to recover from a vicious slump.
Mike Trout -- with a .229 batting average in the second half entering the series finale -- dropped the barrel on a Jesse Chavez cutter in the sixth and pulverized it out to center for his 29th home run, a ball that landed in the camera well that is perched above the fence.
"I've been feeling good the last couple days," Trout said. "Just getting my foot down and getting on time, seeing it."
The Angels will see the A's again next week, for four games at Angel Stadium, then return to Oakland for the second-to-last series of the season. They didn't win this series, but they nonetheless left the Bay Area with sole possession of the AL West lead.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia called paying attention to the standings "a distraction right now," and took little satisfaction from being in first place with more than a month left.
"There are a lot of games left," Trout said. "But it's a lot better than we were the last two years. We're pretty happy about that."
Happy with a lead, Weaver relied on an effective curveball to blank the A's and limit them to four baserunners through the first six innings. He exited with two outs in the seventh, after an inning that saw him give up a two-run homer to Alberto Callaspo and a solo shot to Andy Parrino. But Weaver walked none, struck out eight, earned his 14th win and put his ERA at 3.72 through 28 starts.
Somehow, the world seems to have forgotten how good he can still be.
"He's definitely not forgotten in the clubhouse," Calhoun said. "That's one of our leaders. He competes for us every single time. Whenever Jered's got the ball, we're all confident in here. He takes that presence on the mound, and he's someone who's going to be important for us down the stretch."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.