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Angels fall back to .500 with 4-0 loss to Oakland

The Angels want to take that next step forward. They want to string together wins, start vaulting teams in the American League wild card standings and prove they are something better than what their record says they are.

But, without any more games to play until Friday’s trade deadline, their record says they are .500 — 51-51 after they opened a pivotal four-game set against the Athletics with a 4-0 loss.

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The A’s got on the board early, plating three first-inning runs after Dylan Bundy loaded the bases to start the game. A Jed Lowrie groundout scored the first run. Ramon Laureano — who came into the game with a 1.117 OPS against the Angels this year — doubled home two more. Bundy, helped when catcher Max Stassi picked off Laureano at second, settled down after that, but the damage was done.

“The first inning was tough obviously, he didn’t have his total command,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, “but I thought he got better.”

Bundy left the game after 4 1/3 innings and 72 pitches, well past what Maddon said would likely be a 50 or 60-pitch cap. José Quintana relieved Bundy with two runners on in the fifth and worked out of trouble, striking out Matt Olson and Lowrie to keep the deficit at three.

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“We only had a limited amount of pitches to work with, not having thrown that many in the past month, so I was happy with how deep I got into the game,” Bundy said. “Putting the team down three runs right outta the gate is pretty tough.”

Against Frankie Montas, though, the Angels’ bats couldn’t do enough. Or, for that matter, much of anything.

“That guy’s got ace’s kind of stuff,” Maddon said. “It’s that good.”

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In the third and fourth innings, faced with scoring opportunities after putting two men on, the Angels couldn’t come up with a way to score. Phil Gosselin flew out to end the threat in the third, Adam Eaton struck out to end the fourth.

An inning later, Shohei Ohtani walked with two outs and stole second, again putting Gosselin in a position to drive in a run. Gosselin roped a ground ball to third that looked like it had every chance to start a rally, but Matt Chapman — a two-time Gold Glove winner —put an end to those hopes.

Montas finished with seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and striking out 10 — including five of the last six batters he faced.

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Oakland added another run in the seventh thanks to an error. With runners on first and third, Quintana threw away a pickoff attempt, allowing Elvis Andrus to score. Quintana was lifted for Austin Warren after loading the bases and, in his major league debut, Warren induced a groundout from Laureano to get out of the jam.

That stopped the game from turning into a blowout. It didn’t get the Angels the win. They’re now 3-10 against the A’s this season.

Maddon spoke before the game about the urgency felt by the Angels heading into what figures to be one of the season’s biggest series thus far — four games against the divisional rival who happen to hold the second wild card spot. With the trade deadline Friday, what happened Thursday could even affect whether the Angels buy or sell.

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Despite there being two months to go in the season, Maddon said that the Angels “need to be in playoff mode.”

Mike Trout, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon will be back eventually, and Maddon joked that those were the three best trade deadline acquisitions the Angels will make. But the team still needs to put itself in a position to capitalize on their returns.

All that happened Thursday, though, was a step back into the morass of mediocrity.

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