The $100 million that separates the Oakland A's and the Los Angeles Angels in payroll is not nearly as startling as the 4 1/2 games that still separate them in the standings.
By taking the first two games of a key four-game series in Anaheim between the two wild-card contenders, Oakland continues to hold the upper hand in the AL wild-card race -- an unexpected circumstance that no one would have predicted three months ago.
"I'm not surprised anymore," Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter said, answering the question continually asked about the Angels having to look up in the standings at the A's. "We were surprised when they first started doing this back in early August, but I'm not surprised anymore. These guys are really playing the game. They have really good arms over there."
The Athletics' ability to trade away former All-Star pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill over the winter and then replenish their staff with an assortment of young arms has been the envy of baseball this season.
"Starting-pitching depth is something they've had the luxury of having," former Athletic and current Angels right-hander Dan Haren said. "It's something probably most teams are very jealous of. Them and Tampa Bay probably have the deepest rotations. But nothing really surprises me in baseball anymore."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia also dismissed the idea that the A's were somehow flukes at this point in the season.
"When you're pitching as good as they are, anything is possible. They're doing it," he said after Oakland's 6-5 win Tuesday.
"Those guys have earned where they are in the standings, and we're going to have to play well to catch them."