The Oakland Athletics have long been out of contention in the American League West. However, they will have a big say in who eventually winds up winning the division.
Tonight, the A's host the team that would like to be on top when the smoke clears, as they begin a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the Coliseum.
The A's dropped two of three to the AL West-leading Texas Rangers over the weekend, and after this set Oakland will play the top two teams six more times before the season's out.
On Sunday, the A's were nearly blanked by the Rangers, but Eric Sogard's ninth inning home run made it an 8-1 setback.
Josh Outman (3-5) allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks through 4 2/3 innings, as Oakland lost for the fourth time in six games.
"Right now we're playing for pride and every loss is a disappointment," said Outman. "You especially want to play better in games against division opponents and that was not the case today."
Getting the call for the A's tonight will be lefty Gio Gonzalez, who is 12-12 with a 3.43 ERA. Gonzalez had a three-start winning streak stopped on Tuesday against Kansas City, as he allowed seven runs (six earned) and 10 hits in five innings.
Gonzalez tossed seven scoreless innings to beat the Angels the last time he faced them and is 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA in eight starts.
Anaheim, meanwhile, took two of three from the New York Yankees over the weekend, but lost Sunday's finale when normally sure-handed rookie outfielder Peter Bourjos dropped a fly ball, allowing the go-ahead runs to score in a 6-5 setback.
"I got a good jump on it and got back to the wall, but it just flashed in the sun," Bourjos explained on what led to his gaffe. "It's a play I have to make. It's hard to swallow. That was the turning point and it cost us the game."
Howie Kendrick and Bourjos each contributed a two-run homer in the loss for the Angels, who had a three-game win streak stopped. The loss coupled with Oakland's setback to the Rangers, dropped the Angels 2 1/2 games back in the division.
Tonight, the Angels turn to righty Joel Pineiro, who is 6-6 with a 5.11 ERA. Pineiro hasn't pitched since last Sunday when he beat the Minnesota Twins, holding them to a run and five hits in seven innings.
Pineiro has faced the A's 28 times (23 starts) and is 9-10 against them with a 4.61 ERA. Hopefully he lasts a little longer tonight than he did the last time he faced them back on July 17 when he couldn't get out of the first inning, surrendering seven earned runs in just one-third of an inning.
The Athletics have gotten the better of their division rivals this season, taking eight of the 13 matchups, including five of the six meetings in Oakland.