OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels gave themselves a chance with a mini-roll heading into a pivotal series against the Oakland Athletics. Then three dominant days in the Bay Area put them right back in the AL wild-card mix.
Torii Hunter drove in three runs Wednesday and the Angels completed a three-game sweep by rolling to a 7-1 victory after Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy took a liner off his head in the fourth inning.
"We needed it bad," said Dan Haren, who allowed one run and three hits in six innings. "We knew we needed to get all three. Our will to win these last three games has been different from the rest of the year."
McCarthy (8-6) was sent to the hospital after he was struck by Erick Aybar's comebacker. The A's said Wednesday night he was conscious and doing well, but doctors wanted him to stay overnight for further observation and he would not travel with the team to Seattle on Thursday.
Howie Kendrick doubled and hit a two-run single to help the Angels pull within 2½ games of Oakland for one of two AL wild-card spots. Haren (10-10) struck out seven and walked three.
The Angels outscored Oakland 21-5 in the series. Los Angeles (74-63) has won eight of nine to move a season-best 11 games over .500.
"It's awesome," Hunter said. "(Oakland) was one of the hottest teams in baseball. To come in here and take three from the hottest team, it shows a lot about this ballclub."
Seth Smith's single in the third drove home Oakland's only run. Four relievers held the A's scoreless over the final three innings, including three straight strikeouts by Nick Maronde on his 23rd birthday.
Oakland, which had won a season-best nine straight games entering the series, had not been swept at home since dropping three straight to the Yankees from May 25-27.
"They came in, they pitched well, they got some timely hits and won some games," A's second baseman Cliff Pennington said. "Same thing we've been doing for a while."
Just not in this series.
The Angels grabbed control with three runs in the third. Alberto Callaspo hit a leadoff single, moved to second on Bobby Wilson's sacrifice and scored on Hunter's two-out single. After Albert Pujols doubled and Kendrys Morales was walked intentionally, Kendrick tacked on a two-run single.
Haren almost handed the lead to Oakland until he found his groove.
He walked Derek Norris and Pennington to start the bottom of the third. Coco Crisp grounded to first, and Morales' throw sailed wide to pull Aybar off second and allow Pennington to slide in safely.
Smith singled to right to slice the Angels' lead to 3-1. Haren then struck out Josh Reddick and got Yoenis Cespedes to ground out to end the threat.
Hunter added a two-run single in the ninth with the bases loaded.
"This team is playing where we hoped it would," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And pitching is the reason."
The A's and the Angels were shaken by a scary sequence in the fourth when McCarthy had almost no time to react to Aybar's liner on a 91-mph cutter. The ball bounced off the right side of McCarthy's head, knocking the pitcher down. He also landed on his head on the infield grass.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson picked up the deflected ball and threw out Aybar for the second out of the inning.
McCarthy curled up in a ball and was writhing in pain. Team trainers checked on McCarthy for several minutes as A's players huddled around the infield and on the top step of the dugout.
Aybar also stood on first base and looked on with concern. He was later seen in the Angels' dugout sitting with his head down and his hands over his head. He said he would try to call McCarthy soon.
"You feel really bad," Aybar said in Spanish. "He's a good guy. You never want to hit anybody over the head, and he's a good guy. Hopefully everything turns out all right and, God-willing, that he gets better soon."
McCarthy eventually sat up and stroked his hands through his hair and around his head. He walked off the mound under his own power to an ovation from the Oakland Coliseum crowd.
"You try not to let it linger, but it's human nature for it to," said Norris, the A's catcher. "Your heart goes out to your teammate. You battle with them throughout the course of the season, but we try our best to motivate us to win it for Mac."
NOTES: Angels ace Jered Weaver returned to Southern California for further examination of his bruised right arm. He likely will miss his next start Friday against Detroit. ... Pujols' double in the third was his 40th this season. He had 29 doubles last year with St. Louis. ... Oakland LHP Jordan Norberto (shoulder tendinitis) is expected to start throwing again in the next few days. ... Both teams are off Thursday.
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP