By Jason Wojciechowski on September 11, 2004 at 1:16 PM

This is really getting painful. The A's used to find ways to win. Now they're finding more creative ways to lose. The fifth straight loss came last night against the Indians as Casey Blake smacked a 12th inning homer off the once invincible Justin Duchscherer. The A's couldn't do anything against a rather mediocre Cleveland bullpen while Mark Mulder had a decent, but in the end still mediocre, game, giving up three runs in seven innings, but allowing four walks to just two strikeouts and also giving up two homers, one the tying shot in the eighth inning.

In their four-year run from 2000 to 2003, the A's never had a five-game losing streak this late in the season. The only comparable streak was a six-gamer from 8/5/00 to 8/11/00.

Of course, Anaheim won last night, so the Angels are now just a game back of Oakland. Boston is four games ahead of the A's, so I'm looking at Oakland's only way into the playoffs being the West, which means the A's have to hold onto a one-game lead over the next 22 games. This isn't going to be easy, especially since, after the Indians series, we'll be at the point of the season where the West just plays each other down the stretch.

Even more unfortunate is that, while the A's play Texas-Seattle-Texas, the Angels, of course, play Seattle-Texas-Seattle, so there's definitely potential for Anheim to put pressure on the A's by jumping over them in the standings when they beat up on the division's patsy.

For tonight, though, Rich Harden pitches against CC Sabathia while Chicago and Anaheim both start mediocrities: Jason Grilli and Aaron Sele. The A's couldn't get any offense going against Scott Elarton; I don't know how they can be expected to score any runs off the left-handed fireballer Sabathia. CC's been pretty good against the A's the last two years, giving up three runs in five innings in his only start against them this year, while throwing 21 innings over three starts with a 2.57 ERA last year.

There's a very strong chance the A's could lose their lead tonight.