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LAA@OAK: Willingham blasts his 26th homer of the year

OAKLAND -- Only 13 games remain on the A's calendar following Wednesday's 4-1 defeat and ensuing series loss to the Angels.

Ten of them are against playoff hopefuls, meaning the going won't get any easier for an already banged-up Oakland club.

Coco Crisp has been sidelined with right ankle soreness, and his fill-in, Ryan Sweeney, exited Wednesday's contest with an upper quad strain and is now questionable for the rest of the season. Jemile Weeks was also rested for the day's series finale -- aside from a ninth-inning, pinch-hit at-bat -- after showing some fatigue as of late.

It's a feeling many of his teammates are likely akin to at the moment, as are most players around this time of year. So the excuses are minimal, as the A's are expected to continually showcase their best performance -- especially against contenders.

Josh Willingham has done his part, collecting 16 hits in his last 47 at-bats, the last of which was a solo shot off Angels ace Jered Weaver in the third inning, marking his career-high-tying 26th home run of the season, along with his career-high 91st RBI.

But the left fielder was the lone offensive contributor in the affair, as the A's were otherwise shut down by Weaver, who scattered six hits over seven innings of work, while walking two and fanning one en route to picking up his career-high 17th win of the year.

It was a familiar scene, one seen just a night earlier, when the A's went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position. This time, they came up empty in such situations -- going 0-for-7 while stranding nine.

"I think we've been pretty consistent the second half offensively," manager Bob Melvin said. "The last couple of games, we haven't been as good. But there's no question, Josh has been the key in the middle of the lineup."

Those very woes helped Weaver improve to 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA in four starts against the green and gold this season.

Righty Rich Harden, meanwhile, kept the Angels off the board through the first five innings -- with help from a handful of tremendous defensive plays in the infield -- before allowing the Halos to post a three-spot in the sixth and gain a permanent lead.

Howard Kendrick led off the frame with a walk, and scored on an ensuing RBI double off the bat of Bobby Abreu, who also crossed home plate just minutes later when Mark Trumbo belted his 27th homer of the year off Harden with one out -- a two-run shot to left-center to break a 1-1 tie.

"I got behind some hitters and, 0-2, made a bad pitch," Harden said. "I basically wanted to bounce that pitch. And if I throw it down -- start it low in the zone and it breaks down -- it's a swing and miss. But I just left it up.

"It's really frustrating. That's kind of been the story of my year, so far -- making pitches late in the game and mistakes here or there that have cost me. That's what I gotta change."

Said Trumbo: "I was kind of sitting between speeds. I really want to take advantage of offspeed pitches in the middle that I can handle. I kind of told myself, 'I've been here before, done it before.' I was a tad out front, but still got it on the good part of the bat. I've got to use that part of the field more often."

Los Angeles padded its lead in the eighth, when Abreu walked, moved to third on Trumbo's base hit and scored courtesy of an error by second baseman Eric Sogard while Trumbo stole second base.

Scott Sizemore also made a fielding error in the same inning, giving the A's two on the day -- after their gloves had previously not only produced flawless work, but spectacular plays in the first half of the game.

"That's just kind of the way our season's gone," Harden said. "It's been up and down. You feel the energy early, with guys making nice plays, and then I give up a couple and now we're down. You can feel the difference on the field, especially with Weaver on the mound. It gets to you."

Oakland has now made nine errors in the last seven games, giving it a combined 119 on the season, which is second most in the Majors to the Cubs, who have racked up 124. Melvin called the club's defensive lapses "the biggest weakness" this year.

"There are a lot of effects because of it," he said. "Psychologically, the momentum shifts because of it. We continue to work ad nauseam and, hypothetically, next spring, it is going to be a No. 1 priority."

In the meantime, the A's will have to finish out a campaign that will now be officially marked with a losing record, as their latest defeat moved them to 67-82 on the season. They play host to the AL Central-leading Tigers, who narrowed their magic number to three on Wednesday with a win -- meaning they could clinch a postseason berth while in Oakland this weekend.

"If you have the opportunity to hold them off and not have them do it at your place," Melvin said, "that's probably the better of the two outcomes."

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