The American League West race won't be decided this weekend, not with a month remaining in the season and not with two of the season's best teams battling at the top, but the next four games could shape who's chasing who -- and how much ground will separate them.
Down one game in the division, the A's visit Anaheim for a four-game set against the first-place Angels, and it'll be the last time the teams meet until the second-to-last series of the season, in Oakland.
For Angels manager Mike Scioscia, however, the focus isn't so much on the playoff implications as it is on continuing to do what got his team to this point.
"The division lead is important after the last game of the season," Scioscia said. "That's when it becomes important. I think the standings are a distraction right now."
Added outfielder Kole Calhoun: "We just have to keep playing baseball. If we keep doing what we've been doing for the last month or so, I think we'll look up at the end of the season and we'll be all right. We have to take it one game at a time."
Right-hander Sonny Gray will get the ball for Oakland. He's 13-7 with a 3.00 ERA, and his previous start was a victory over the Angels, a game in which he allowed three runs on six hits in 8 1/3 innings.
Left-hander C.J. Wilson will start for the Angels, and he also last pitched against his division rival. Wilson, 10-8 with a 4.45 ERA, held the A's to just one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Wilson recognizes the importance of the series, but he's also on the same wavelength as his manager.
"When you have that many games against a competitive team, whether you're in first or second, it's always going to come down to the end," Wilson said. "You'd obviously like to win the rest of them. That's just kind of a no-brainer. But they're not going to roll over."
Athletics: Freiman sent to Beloit
The A's decision to use a sixth starter for Wednesday's series finale in Houston forced them to option first baseman Nate Freiman to the Minors before the game.
In order to make room for lefty Drew Pomeranz, Freiman was sent to Class A Beloit. He was sent there rather than Triple-A Sacramento so that he can make a prompt return to the A's on Tuesday, the day after Beloit's season concludes. Sacramento, on the other hand, is likely destined for the playoffs.
"He told me he was excited about it -- another league, another place to play, get to see some new ballparks," said manager Bob Melvin. "That's the kind of guy he is.
"That's one team you know is not going to the playoffs, and you try to get him back as soon as you can. That's the way to do it."
Angels: Saturday starter undecided
The Angels' search for a potential fifth starter took a hit on Tuesday night, when Chris Volstad was scratched from a start in Triple-A with a sore elbow.
Volstad, one of the few options the Angels had for Saturday against the A's, is not expected to be ready this weekend, seemingly narrowing the options to Double-A starters Michael Roth and Drew Rucinski and Triple-A left-hander Randy Wolf. The Halos need a starter with ace Garrett Richards out for the season.
Scioscia even mentioned reliever Cory Rasmus as a possible option. Rasmus threw a career-high 51 pitches on Monday but has never started a Major League game.
"We've got some guys that are currently on our 25-man roster that we could look to get that game done, and there are some guys in the organization we could look at," Scioscia said.
Roth appears the most likely option, having thrown seven shutout innings on Monday, which would put him on normal rest for Saturday. In 22 starts at Double-A Arkansas, he is 11-7 with a 2.62 ERA. He has appeared in two games for the Angels, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Rucinski, meanwhile, started Sunday's game for Arkansas, giving up four runs in five innings while recording 11 strikeouts. Like Roth, Rucinski has pitched for the Angels (two runs in one inning in July) and remains on the 40-man roster.
Wolf is not on the 40-man roster -- meaning the Angels would need to make room for him by potentially losing a player -- and last pitched on Sunday, for Salt Lake. The 38-year-old veteran surrendered four runs on eight hits across seven innings.
• Jed Lowrie, nursing a fractured right index finger back to health, is back to playing catch with ease and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend.
• With a home run in the seventh inning on Wednesday, Mike Trout joined Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez as the only players with two 30-homer seasons by their age-22 campaigns.
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.