ANAHEIM -- One down, 16 to go.
The first of 17 straight contests against contending teams -- 14 of which come on the road -- went as planned for the A's, who continued to show they are a legitimate postseason contender by staging a 3-1 win over the host Angels on Monday night, led by another brilliant performance from righty Jarrod Parker. This after the Halos swept the Green and Gold just last week in three games.
"It was definitely a big game for us," Cliff Pennington said. "They came into our place and did what they needed to do, and we have to come into theirs and try to take care of our business. To get the first win is a big step."
"That's a big win for us, based on the fact they handled us pretty good at our place and they'd been playing so well here at home," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Melvin's club has won four straight since the brooms came out, their deficit in the American League West race slimmed to three games behind the first-place Rangers. They've also claimed 10 consecutive road contests, which marks their longest road winning streak since 2002, when they also won 10 in a row away from the Coliseum during their historic 20-game run.
This A's team, now a season-high 20 games over .500 and in sole possession of the first Wild Card slot, is putting together an equally remarkable story, with a relatively unknown cast of youthful characters leading the charge through a challenging September.
Five months ago, this same group was pegged to finish near the bottom of the standings. Suddenly, they're just the fifth team -- and second in the AL -- to reach 80 wins.
"I'm not surprised anymore," the Angels' Torii Hunter said. "I mean, we were surprised when they first started doing it in early August, but I'm not surprised anymore. They're playing the game, and they have really good arms over there."
Monday marked the first of four games for the A's in Anaheim, a set that will be followed by three at home against fellow surprise team Baltimore. The test then continues thousands of miles away in Detroit and New York. After that, a four-game series in Texas awaits the A's, who will then finish out the season at home vs. the Mariners and the Rangers.
No, the schedule isn't kind to them, but they might be just young enough to not even care.
Parker doesn't. Oakland's 23-year-old starter tossed seven innings of one-run ball against a stacked Halos lineup to collect his 10th victory of the season. That matches Tommy Milone's win total, giving the A's two rookies with at least 10 wins for just the second time in Oakland history and first since 2009, when Brett Anderson compiled 11 and Trevor Cahill racked up 10.
"It's an accomplishment, obviously, but I don't think we're done," Parker said. "I'm not done."
Parker's latest gem, helped along by an aggressive approach, came just six days after he limited the Angels to two runs in seven innings. He took a loss that day, having received just one run of support. This time around he offered up just three hits while the A's offense put three runs on the board.
"They were aggressive as well, so I tried to get early contact, early outs, and it translated into going deep in the game," Parker said. "Pitching to their aggression was big, because obviously they saw me just a week ago and it was something where I knew they were coming in with a good game plan, so I took advantage of it."
Righty Ryan Cook pitched a scoreless eighth, and Grant Balfour took care of the ninth for his 10th save in as many opportunities in 12 games since returning to the closer role.
Power again fueled the A's at the plate, as Brandon Moss and Pennington each connected for solo shots off Angels righty Dan Haren, who was around for 6 1/3 innings. Oakland's first run was plated by Coco Crisp, who led off the game with a triple and scored on Seth Smith's ensuing RBI groundout.
The A's have hit a Major League-leading 81 home runs since the All-Star break.
"We've got a lot of guys on the team that can swing the bat well," Moss said." A lot of us don't swing for singles, and some nights no one's clicking and you don't score. But I feel like you look at their club, a lot of good clubs, and they all have the ability to change the score with one swing, and that's something that we have."
"Anybody in the lineup can go deep," Parker said, "and that's big. That's what has made us great this year."
Parker's work hasn't hurt, either.