ANAHEIM -- A deep, talented pitching staff almost always masks an underperforming offense, and in Oakland's case, that's been especially true during the season's first three and a half months. The A's sit 13th in the American League in team batting average, yet they're two games up in the West.
But in order to capitalize on solid pitching, a team has to score runs, and the A's haven't been doing a whole lot of that recently.
The offensive famine continued Saturday night in Anaheim with a punchless 2-0 loss to the Angels, as Dan Straily's superb effort on the mound went to waste.
"When you're not scoring runs, everybody in the lineup puts a little bit more pressure on themselves to do more than they're capable of doing, or to do more than they're going to be able to do," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said. "I see us all doing that right now because we want to win."
Halos left-hander C.J. Wilson dazzled, holding the A's to three hits in 8 1/3 innings. Following a seeing-eye single by Nate Freiman to lead off the second, Wilson retired 18 consecutive batters, and the A's were held without a run for just the seventh time this season.
Straily, meanwhile, was very sharp for the A's, allowing just two runs in seven efficient innings. He surrendered an early run, but stifled the Angels until the seventh, when Alberto Callaspo homered to double the Halos' lead.
"Tonight's ballgame was a matter of needing to throw up two more zeros than I did," said Straily, who had his personal five-game winning streak snapped. "[Wilson] was on tonight, kept our hitters off balance, but just two more zeros and we're still playing ball."
That's a bit of a harsh self-evaluation, given how well Straily pitched. The right-hander made only one glaring mistake -- the middle-in, belt-high changeup that Callaspo crushed into the right-field seats on the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh.
The way the A's bats have performed recently (they've mustered just 13 runs in the last eight games), that two-run lead seemed nearly insurmountable -- though Oakland did put two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings.
"We're grinding, we're just not getting any results, and right now just not hitting enough balls hard enough to even consider -- with what we're doing right now -- getting into a rally," manager Bob Melvin said. "But that happens over the course of the season, too."
The Angels jumped out in front in the bottom of the first inning, when Mike Trout scored on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly. Trout reached base when he was hit by a 1-2 fastball from Straily and advanced to third on an Albert Pujols single.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie laced a double to right in the top of the frame, but the A's wouldn't put another runner in scoring position until the eighth against Wilson.
"Tonight I just had more pitches in the mix," Wilson said. "I had the changeup, the split, cutter, all in the strike zone. This whole year I've been relying mostly on fastball slider and occasional curveball, but I had the most strikes tonight."
The A's two left-handed hitters looked especially foolish against Wilson. Hitting seventh and eighth in the lineup, respectively, Josh Reddick and Moss went a combined 0-for-5 with five K's. Wilson used his slider -- which was devastating on Saturday night -- as the put-away pitch in all five at-bats.
"He was throwing strikes," Moss said. "He sometimes gets in trouble -- He's got good stuff, but he'll nibble a little bit. ... Then he has to come at guys. Obviously if you have to come at guys too often, you're going to give up hits and runs. But tonight he threw strikes."
So, too, did Straily, who has been back and forth between the big league club and Triple-A all season. The right-hander praised the A's front office for always communicating their plans to him, so he's constantly ready when called upon.
On Saturday, Straily pounded the zone all night, throwing 71 of his 97 pitches for strikes. In his three starts this month, he has allowed just three runs on 11 hits in 20 1/3 innings.
"My ability to command my pitches has just gotten better and better," Straily said. "It's just one of those things I feel like just comes with time. I've been able to keep the ball down a lot more than in the past."
On Sunday afternoon, the A's will look to avoid being swept at Angel Stadium for the first time since September 2010.
"A lot of times it just takes a good game to get everybody [not] to tend to press just a little bit too much when you're not scoring runs," Melvin said. "It can be a contagious thing."