ANAHEIM -- For the A's, the only good thing about August is that it's over.
Their most dreadful month in years culminated in an 8-1, four-game series-sweeping loss to the Angels, but not before Oakland ran its scoreless streak to 29 innings and watched Scott Kazmir implode in a 1 1/3-inning outing that ended at the same time manager Bob Melvin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
The A's slide has hit a new low, their frustration level now at a new high, having lost 14 of their last 20. They're five games out of first place, after holding a four-game lead exactly three weeks ago, and with just 26 to play in their quest for a third consecutive American League West title.
After Sunday's game, they returned to the clubhouse to a steaming Melvin, who had watched much of his club's continued struggles play out on TV, following his second-inning ejection. Melvin held a lengthy closed-door meeting and was not shy in voicing his disappointment in his players, nor in relaying those feelings to the media thereafter.
"What can you say? Embarrassing. Pathetic. We don't play like that," Melvin said. "The last three games here are the worst I've seen this team play in I can't remember how long. I feel bad for our fans who have to watch that."
"Everyone respects everything he says," said Kazmir, "and it's something where you feel disappointed with yourself when you hear stuff like that. We've worked hard to get to this position where we're at, and the way we're playing is not what we're accustomed to, it's not who we are, and it's something we need to address, we need to take care of, we need to fix."
That the A's had their top four starters lined up for this crucial series was no accident. The first three provided quality outings in tough losses, but Kazmir didn't even get out of the second, allowing his former team six runs on two hits and four walks. He has a 27.00 ERA in two starts against the Angels this year and a 2.37 ERA against everyone else.
But the lefty was also none too happy with home-plate umpire Gerry Davis and questioned his professionalism. MLB did not issue an official statement but A's players told reporters Davis was reprimanded by MLB for making faces at Oakland's dugout the night before, and Kazmir wondered whether that influenced Davis' actions Sunday.
"It's late August, a tough time of year for anyone in the game, it really is," said Kazmir. "But it's important to rise above any personal issue and call a fair game. We owe it to the game to do that, we really do. And what I saw in the video were 10-plus pitches that I felt were right there. I don't know if it had something to do with last night, since he got reprimanded, but just professionalism is something I have an issue with. No matter what happens on the field, some things are just unacceptable."
Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, meanwhile, limited an anemic A's offense to five hits over seven innings, not allowing a runner past second base. It wasn't until the eighth when the A's snapped their 29-inning scoreless streak, third longest in Oakland history, on Josh Reddick's RBI single against Mike Morin.
The A's scored just three other runs in the series, all of them Thursday, and it's the first time they've been swept by the Angels in a four-game series since June 19-22, 1997.
"The reason I'm that upset is that's not who we are," said Melvin. "That's not who we've been for three years. And for the last I don't know how long, it's mounted. It's been frustrating. But the last three games for us are just not who we are right now, and it's embarrassing. We should be embarrassed."
As much as this wasn't what they wanted to hear, several players suggested it was necessary.
"I definitely think something needed to be said," said Josh Donaldson. "There's a month left of the season, we're definitely a team that's capable, we just have to turn the page. We came out and got beat, got beat bad today. It's a wakeup call. This is the time of the season you need to be playing your best, and right now we're playing our worst."
"I mean, you never really want to have meetings like that, but we have to play better baseball, plain and simple," said Derek Norris. "I think that's all he's looking for, for us to step up and play baseball. Frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment, kind of all added up into how we don't do things as a ballclub, and we need to figure it out, because if we don't figure it out, we're going to miss out on a lot of good opportunities that we've built up and that we've tried to do here.
"I feel like we put so much time and effort into the first X-amount of months into the season, to [throw] it away now would just be a ginormous waste of our time."