CHICAGO -- The A's can feel good about their body of work over the challenging 25-game stretch they just completed. But their 7-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday was not representative of that effort.
A sloppy defensive game, coupled with uncharacteristic shakiness by starter Bartolo Colon, made for a long afternoon in front of 25,106 fans at U.S. Cellular Field. The A's dropped two of three to the White Sox, losing a series for only the second time in their past 11, and fell out of the lead for one of the American League's two wild-card spots.
Still, they went 15-10 during a block of 25 games against contending teams. In only one series during that span -- a four-game set against Toronto from Aug. 2-5 -- was the opponent below .500 when the series began.
The A's (61-53) proved they should be considered legitimate postseason contenders, but manager Bob Melvin said his team can't afford to take its foot off the gas as it begins a three-game series at Kansas City (49-65) on Tuesday.
That opens a nine-game stretch against sub-.500 clubs.
"It doesn't mean that because we're not playing teams above .500, we're automatically going to play better," Melvin said. "You have to keep grinding, have to keep the intensity. It's good that we did play well against good teams, and we should gain some confidence from that. But you have to continue to play well."
The A's could be without a key player for the near future. Third baseman
Inge popped the shoulder back into its socket and stayed in the game, but he said Sunday morning that his shoulder was "pretty damn sore."
While Inge did not project how much time he might miss, Melvin acknowledged the 15-day disabled list is a possibility. Inge said it will be good to verify there is nothing structurally wrong with the shoulder.
"If there's nothing on film that shows I can hurt anything, it's play through pain, whatever I can tolerate," Inge said. "Fifteen days, for me, feels like an eternity. If I can make it three to five, (that's best). I would never play if I was going to be a detriment to the team."
Inge is hitting only .216, but his 50 RBIs since joining the A's in late April rank third on the team. He also is a clubhouse leader, and teammate Jonny Gomes called him the "captain" of the infield.
Adam Rosales, who started at third Sunday, is the only backup infielder on the A's roster. The A's aren't deep at third base throughout the organization either. They could turn to Josh Donaldson, a converted catcher who entered Sunday hitting .335 for Triple-A Sacramento, or bring back Brandon Hicks.
Grant Green, one of the A's top hitting prospects, has seen time at third for Sacramento, but he is playing more at second base.
If the A's look outside the organization, utility infielder Jose Lopez -- who has substantial third base experience -- was released by the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, though his stats aren't enticing.
Rosales, Gomes and Derek Norris all homered for the A's on Sunday, but the White Sox broke open the game with a five-run sixth off Colon (9-9), who allowed six runs -- five earned -- and nine hits in 52/3 innings. Colon's streak of innings without allowing an earned run was snapped at 281/3 when A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer with one out in the sixth.
The A's made three throwing errors, two by shortstop Cliff Pennington. His second one helped set up Chicago's first run in the third.
White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (14-3) was excellent, striking out 11 with no walks over 62/3 innings.
Melvin said either Norris, the catcher, or Evan Scribner, the pitcher, needed to be at home.
"We didn't cover that very well, so that doesn't sit well with anybody," the manager said.
The Jays have had interest in A's left-hander Brett Anderson, and the A's like Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar. But the fact that the A's are scouting young prospects, who wouldn't help the team's present playoff push, suggests the A's are doing their homework for a potential offseason deal.
A's (Jarrod Parker 7-6) at Kansas City (Jeremy Guthrie 4-12), 5:10 p.m. CSNCA