Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, I thought they were solidifying themselves for a potential World Series run.
Shows how little I know.
The A's were considered by some to be the best team in baseball as recently as late July, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would describe Oakland in that manner these days. After Thursday's 1-0 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, the A's have lost 11 of their last 14 games and are just 9-21 since Aug. 10.
Once the AL West leader, Oakland is all but eliminated from the division race. They now trail the first-place Los Angeles Angels by 9.5 games. A wild-card berth is far from a guarantee, as the A's now lead Detroit by just one game and Seattle by 1.5 games in that race.
Oakland was the best offensive team in baseball over the first four months, but now it can't hit a lick. The A's have scored more than three runs only 15 times in the 39 games since Yoenis Cespedes was traded to Boston for Lester on July 31.
And, if Oakland does miss the playoffs, it will look back on these past four days in Chicago as a missed opportunity. The White Sox won three of the four games, with all three Chicago victories coming by one run.
You can forgive the A's for losing to Sale on Thursday. The Sox ace had dominating stuff. He allowed just two hits and struck out nine over eight shutout innings. At one point, he retired 17 consecutive hitters. Sale improved to 12-3 on the season and lowered his ERA to a league-leading 1.99. He is trying to become the first Sox pitcher to lead the American League in ERA since Joe Horlen in 1967.
Oakland isn't the first team to be stopped cold by Sale. It won't be the last.
However, the A's had two other losses in the series, and both were unforgivable for a contending team. They had a 4-3 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night, only to see Tyler Flowers homer to tie the game. The Sox catcher added a second home run in the 12th inning to lift Chicago to a 5-4 win.
Oakland had a 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday night, but Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single with the bases loaded to lift the Sox to a 2-1 win.
The A's should have won three out of four in the series. Instead, they lost three out of four to a Chicago team that has been out of contention for more than a month. Two of the three losses were the type that teams that narrowly miss the playoffs look back on and ask, "What if?"