The A's have lost four games in a row, to the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles. They were defeated by A's Brand Baseball's two favorite Orioles, (in order) SS Miguel Tejada and LF Eric Byrnes, and by our least favorite, overrated, lying, cheating, limp-dicked 1B/DH Rafael Palmeiro. They suffered a bad inning from Barry Zito, who sustained his first loss since June 17, on Monday, a horrible call by first-base umpire Chris Guccione and a 9th-inning rally that wasn't on Tuesday, and a bad outing by Danny Haren on Wednesday. They scored nine runs in four games.

The mood at the Coliseum, on the BART ride home, and here at A's Brand Baseball HQ, has changed: from euphoric trash-talking and counting playoff chickens based on 120 games worth of eggs, to trying to remember what to call it when the ninth inning ends and the other team has more runs than the A's do, to hesitatingly accepting that the team might not play .800 ball the rest of the way, and finally to cautious optimism. In itself, that's a testament to the progress the team has made this season--in April and May, when the team was collecting four-game losing streaks like they were Homies, it would have brought out the Chickens Little (they know who they are), wringing their hands and asking: What's wrong with Zito? Should Billy Beane hold a primetime press conference to apologize to Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver? Should he fire Ken Macha? Does this mean the A's are moving to San Jose? To Las Vegas?

If you'd posed all these questions to the crowd at Wednesday's game, though, you'd have heard 32,290 people respond, together, in 32,290-part harmony: Meh. The Royals are coming to town Friday.