OAKLAND -- As a resident of the American League West for the entirety of his nine-year career, C.J. Wilson has witnessed first-hand the ebbs and flows of the A's, which as of late have them poised for their second straight division title with 12 games remaining in the season.
Wilson, who debuted for the Rangers in 2005 before signing with the Angels in 2011, improved to 11-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 career starts against the A's in Monday's series-opening win at O.co Coliseum. The win was his fourth of the season against Oakland, yet the rest of baseball has been far less successful against the owners of the third-best record in the Major Leagues.
So how do the A's, possessors of the fourth-lowest payroll in baseball, compete against teams like the Angels, who own the sixth-highest? For Wilson, understandably, it comes down to pitching.
"It doesn't matter who it is," Wilson said. "It feels like there's always someone on their team that pitches well. There's always a guy in the bullpen."
"I think that people don't see some of the details that lead to championship-winning teams, which is why not everyone wins championships," Wilson added. "If you assess a guy like Sonny Gray -- who's a first-rounder, throws mid-90s, strikes people out and has three or four pitches he can throw -- that guy's not unheard of, he's not unheralded. He's a big-time prospect."
But many of the A's major contributors progressed through the Minor Leagues with less fanfare, which made it easy for pundits -- many of whom picked the Angels to win the division this season -- to right off the A's leading up to the start of the season despite having won the season prior.
"We play them quite a bit so we're very familiar with who they are," Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo said. "I think a lot of those trains of thought probably come from their payroll and theirs maybe not being as high as some of the other teams. But that doesn't mean they don't have quality players. They got a lot of young guys here contributing."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Kirshman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.