OAKLAND, California — The Los Angeles Angels have spent weeks trying to figure out C.J. Wilson's up-and-down season.
Just when he was on a nice roll again, everything fell apart — and he had almost an entire game to study video.
The Angels are counting on a consistent Wilson for what they hope will be a deep postseason run. They need him to be sharp, especially with the rotation missing injured Garrett Richards.
"We've talked about this since Garrett went down," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've had some guys that have pitched well for us that have stumbled a bit. We're going to get through this week. Hopefully some adjustments will be made from some guys that are important to us and we'll get ready to do a better job of pitching moving forward. But there's not many options we have right now. We need these guys. We have confidence they'll find it."
Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer in the eighth for Los Angeles, giving him 1,602 RBIs for 33rd on the career list.
Geovany Soto hit a two-run single to highlight a six-run first inning as the A's chased Wilson after just two outs for the second-shortest start of his career. Stephen Vogt added a two-run single in the seventh.
"It's discouraging to lose," Wilson said. "We're trying to play for the best record, trying to clinch home-field advantage, but you really try not to attach too much to a loss. I pitched poorly and wasn't able to locate the catcher's mitt."
The A's moved one game ahead of Kansas City for the first wild card.
Jeff Samardzija (5-5) beat the Angels for the first time in three career starts and won for the first time in five starts since a victory at Houston on Aug. 25. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter while working at least seven innings for the sixth straight start.
Josh Donaldson stopped a sharp grounder by Chris Iannetta that flipped up off his glove, and the All-Star third baseman made a barehanded catch and threw to first to end the seventh. Samardzija walked off shaking his head in disbelief.
Scioscia made it clear before the game that he wants his team to treat the remaining games with the same urgency even though the Angels clinched their first division title since 2009 last week.
"I think it's important to play and keep your edge," he said. "Naturally, these games have bearing on all the teams."
"If you're missing your spots all over the place, it's a mechanical thing," Wilson said.
Before Soto's single, Oakland was hitless in 18 plate appearances with the bases loaded since Sept. 9.
Wilson, the first of three straight southpaws scheduled to start in this series, had his three-start winning streak snapped. His only shorter start was one-third of an inning on May 11, 2012, at Texas.
The A's hold a 9-8 lead in the season series, dropping the Angels to 1-6 at the Coliseum.
Angels: OF Josh Hamilton hit off a tee as he works his way back from pain in his upper body that sidelined him for the 17th time in 18 games. ... 2B Howie Kendrick was rested as a precaution a day after he was pulled late in the game with minor tightness in his hamstring. ... RHP Matt Shoemaker, making progress in his recovery from a strained left oblique, played light catch and is still giving Scioscia enough "encouraging" signs that he could make the postseason roster. Scioscia said the chances of Shoemaker pitching in another regular-season game are "very remote." Shoemaker said: "I'm very optimistic of soon throwing again."
Athletics: SS Jed Lowrie, who left Sunday's game after four innings with a bruised left foot, and C Derek Norris (shoulder) returned to the lineup, though Norris was the DH after requiring an injection.
Angels: LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.24 ERA) makes his third start and 10th appearance, carrying a scoreless stretch of 10 1-3 innings over his last five outings. LeBlanc has faced the A's twice in relief this year.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray (13-9, 3.28) looks to snap a five-start winless stretch with what would be just his second victory in 11 starts since a 5-0 July that earned him AL pitcher of the month honors.