OAKLAND (AP) — Brandon McCarthy had just finished his delivery when Erick Aybar's line drive zipped back. It struck the Oakland Athletics pitcher in the head and knocked him to the ground in the fourth inning.
McCarthy curled up in a ball and lay writhing in pain, getting checked by trainers for a couple minutes. Teammates huddled around the infield, and players from both sides stood on the top steps of the dugouts.
"First thing he asked me was, 'Where did it hit me?'" A's catcher Derek Norris said.
McCarthy never lost consciousness, walked off under his own power and was sent to the hospital as a precaution while Oakland went on to a 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, completing a three-game series sweep.
"You try not to let it linger, but it's human nature for it to," Norris said. "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."
Howie Kendrick doubled and hit a two-run single to hand McCarthy (8-6) the loss and help the Angels pull within 2½ games of Oakland for one of two AL wild-card spots. Dan Haren (10-10) allowed three hits and one run in six innings.
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.
"The mood is quiet," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's one of your teammates. You're obviously happy to see him get up and walk off the field in the fashion he did with that kind of a blow. But everyone's quiet for a while. Guys were running up to the clubhouse to see how he was afterward. He was walking around ... but you have to continue to try to play the game."
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.
The A's and the Angels were shaken by the scary sequence in the fourth when McCarthy had almost no time to react to Aybar's liner on a 91-mph cutter. Third baseman Josh Donaldson picked up the deflected ball and threw to first for the second out of the inning.
Aybar stood on first 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 and was taken to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland.
The A's said Wednesday night McCarthy 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.
"It was crazy," Pennington said. "From the side I could tell it hit him in the head. I didn't know if it clipped his glove or not but I knew that it got him good. Obviously that takes precedence over anything that happened in the baseball game. You just want to make sure he's OK."
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.