ANAHEIM -- This was the kind of game where the home field scoreboard operator might have been temped to pull the plug before the players left the field.

Starter Jon Garland struggled again against the Oakland Athletics, a team that has owned him. The A's scored eight runs in the seventh inning and started a four-game series between divisional leaders with a 14-2 victory before 37,725 Monday night at Angel Stadium.

Garland labored into the sixth inning, Chris Bootcheck endured a forgettable seventh and home-plate umpire Charlie Reliford ejected pitching coach Mike Butcher in the third inning.

The Angels absorbed their worst loss at home in almost four years and the team's worst defeat at the hands of the A's in almost five years in a game in which they pitched uncharacteristically poor.

And, as the final indignity of the evening, the A's (17-10) moved into first place in the American League West.

Manager Mike Scioscia didn't care that his team arrived at 4 a.m. Monday following a night game in Detroit.

"Doesn't make a difference," he said. "We just didn't play a good ballgame tonight."

Not very often will Scioscia evoke a skunk to discuss his team's performance after a game. Then again, the Angels (16-11) don't often get beaten as badly as they did Monday night. It was the Angels' worst loss of the season, the most runs and hits (16) the pitching staff has allowed in a game, the most runs scored against them at home since Seattle won, 16-6, on Sept. 22, 2004, and the most runs Oakland has scored against the Angels since Sept. 11, 2003.

Not all history is good history, but Scioscia was more concerned with Garland's ineffectiveness.

"He was not able to repeat pitches, had trouble changing speeds and that's his real strength," Scioscia said. "When he's on, he does it as well as anybody. He just hasn't gotten into that groove yet."

Garland (3-3) fell to 3-9 in his career against the A's and saw his ERA jump to 5.94. He had difficulty locating his fastball and struggled to work in his secondary stuff. He pitched six-plus innings, allowing seven runs and 10 hits. He struck out five, walked three and gave up two of Oakland's three home runs. Garland hasn't been consistently missing bats. In his last three starts, he has allowed 15 hits in 18 1/3 innings and has a 6.39 ERA in that span.

"I was getting hit around the ballpark, plain and simple," Garland said.

Garland departed after surrendering a double to former Chicago teammate Frank Thomas (3-for-3) on the first pitch of the seventh inning. It was his 109th and final pitch, of which 70 were strikes. Thomas also had an RBI triple in the first and an RBI single in the fifth inning. It was his first triple since 2002.

"[Garland] pitched me tough tonight," Thomas said. "I got the best of him, but one was a bloop [triple] and [the single] broke my bat. The double, I think he was a little tired. He was over 100 pitches, I think. I thought he battled me tough, though."

That was of little consolation to Garland, who has not defeated Oakland since July 2, 2005, and has a 5.01 career ERA against the A's.

Matters went from bad to worse in a hurry for the Angels. Bootcheck had flu-like symptoms this weekend, but was no doubt feeling ill as he watched the seventh inning unfold. The A's sent 13 batters to the plate and Bootcheck saw his ERA balloon to 37.80. In two-thirds of an inning, he allowed seven runs, six hits, walked three and gave up a home run to Emil Brown on the first pitch he threw.

The Angels and A's traditionally have enjoyed a heated rivalry marked by well-pitched, close games. The best-pitched game belonged to A's starter Chad Gaudin (3-3), who has allowed only five earned runs in his last 26 innings. He gave up one earned run in six innings, catcher Mike Napoli's fifth-inning home run.

Scioscia said the Athletics are a better team than many observers have given them credit for.

"A lot of people in the media wrote them off, but when we saw them in the spring, we saw they had a good offensive lineup," Scioscia said. "We knew we had to pitch well. You have to go after these guys. They have some power and they have some veteran hitters."

Scioscia said he was surprised that Butcher was ejected. Butcher got his money's worth after Reliford sent him to the showers early.

"Mike really didn't say anything," Scioscia said. "I was surprised Charlie had that quick of a hook, but it didn't have anything to do with the outcome of the game."

Garland seemed to indicate that he felt Reliford was squeezing him.

"I simply asked him a question and he kind of jumped on me," Garland said. "He called some pitches early in the game that he didn't call after that. If you're going to call it, call it.

"Who knows? Maybe he's having a bad day. Maybe (Butcher) was just protecting me. I asked him why he had to jump on me the way he did. I simply asked him a question. I'm not trying to imply anything. I just wanted to know for myself."

It was that kind of game for the Angels.