Oakland was supposed to run away with the American League West after trading for Jon Lester at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Instead, the Athletics have backpedaled and scuffled through August, posting a 7-10 record this month, with losses in seven of their last eight games, including a season-high five straight. The recent skid has knocked Oakland off the podium as baseball's best team, and has also dropped the A's percentage points behind the Angels atop the division standings.
Oakland will try to forget its nightmarish road trip when it opens a key five-game homestand with the Mets on Tuesday, kicking off a brief two-game series at O.co Coliseum. The A's host the Angels for three games after playing New York.
"Every team goes through a stretch like this," Stephen Vogt said. "I don't think there's any team in the big leagues that's ever not had a stretch like this. I think for us, it's good it's happening now with this much time left."
The middling Mets may be just what the Athletics need. New York has lost five of its last seven games and was 7 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League following Monday's 4-1 loss to the Cubs.
After Monday's off-day (the A's first off-day since July 31), Oakland will turn to Scott Kazmir on Tuesday to return the club to the win column. In his last start, Kazmir was saddled with the loss despite throwing seven innings of three-run ball, while allowing seven hits and one walk.
Kazmir has dominated for much of the season, but like the Athletics, he has hit a rough patch since the calendar turned to August. In three starts this month, Kazmir is 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA and a .297 batting average against.
The 30-year-old left-hander faced the Mets earlier this season, lasting just three innings in his worst start of the season. He surrendered seven runs on eight hits, while serving up three home runs during a 10-1 loss on June 24.
The Mets, meanwhile, will send Dillon Gee to the hill as he tries for his first win since July 9, when he twirled seven innings of one-run ball in his return from the disabled list. Since that start, Gee is 0-4 with a 5.60 ERA and has given up eight home runs in those six starts.
Gee hasn't pitched at O.co Coliseum and has only started once against the A's, a loss in 2011. Coco Crisp is the only Athletics hitter who has a hit off Gee.
Athletics: Club upbeat despite slide
Monday's off-day was much needed for the A's, who have lost five consecutive games and seven of their last eight.
Although Oakland recognizes the need to correct course, John Jaso believes the occasional slump here or there is part of baseball.
"There's still a lot of season left," Jaso said. "The key here is to get the momentum back and carry it on into after the [regular] season ends."
Vogt believes a stretch like this reveals a team's makeup, something the first baseman asserts is quite strong in Oakland.
"The last week or so, we just haven't been able to get big hits at certain times," Vogt said. "It's frustrating, but at the same time, we're never down. If there were no records, you wouldn't be able to tell when you walk into this clubhouse what our last week has been like. That's the character of this team."
Mets: Wright returns despite shoulder issue
As the Mets showered, dressed and scurried out of the clubhouse, eager to enjoy a rare evening without work or travel, following a 2-1 loss to the Cubs on Sunday, their captain remained.
David Wright was busy receiving 45-60 minutes of treatment on his sore left shoulder, which has given him problems for two months and was re-aggravated when it absorbed the blow of an 88-mph fastball on Saturday night.
Wright, who was unavailable to the media before and after Sunday's game, didn't play in the loss. He returned to the lineup on Monday and went 0-for-4.
The injury comes at an unfortunate time for Wright, whose recent 13-game hit streak helped him break out of a second-half slump. His slash line is still just .232/.289/.250 since the All-Star break -- which coincides with him receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder -- and he is weathering a down year overall. Wright's .711 OPS is far below his career mark of .874, and he's on pace for career lows in on-base percentage (.331) and slugging percentage (.380).
"David Wright will bounce back, whether it's next week or next year," manager Terry Collins said. "This guy keeps himself in tip-top shape."
• Oakland has held at least a share of first place in the AL West since April 24.
• The Athletics have a winning record in a franchise-record 14 straight months.
• Top Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard struck out eight and allowed two runs in five innings for Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday, giving him 40 strikeouts and a 2.14 ERA in his last six starts.
Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.