OAKLAND – The A’s had trouble driving home a second run in the late innings of Saturday’s game.
It turns out they didn’t have to.
Coco Crisp scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth to snap a tie game, and the A’s secured a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in front of a sellout crowd at the Coliseum.
With that, the A’s have taken the first two of this three-game series and moved into a tie with Los Angeles for first place in the American League West. At worst, they have captured the series and are guaranteed to have gained a game on the Angels from where the standing stood when the series began.
It wasn’t the most stylish way to plate the winning run, not that style points matter in late August. Crisp led off the eighth with a single to center and moved to second on Craig Gentry’s comebacker. He moved to third on Josh Donaldson's groundout to second. With pinch hitter Brandon Moss up, Angels sidearm reliever Joe Smith sailed a 1-1 fastball past catcher Chris Iannetta and to the backstop, and Crisp scored easily.
The teams combined for just 12 hits in a tense contest that the Angels tied in the seventh. The A’s, now 8-3 against the Angels this season, go for the sweep Sunday night.
Starting pitching report
After seeing his seven-game winning streak snapped in his last start, Jon Lester pitched well enough to win Saturday. He held the Angels to one run on five hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking one. He retired 13 out of 14 in one stretch bridging the second through the sixth and effectively mixed his fastball and off-speed stuff throughout the game.
In the seventh, the Angels suddenly started getting good wood on him. Howie Kendrick doubled to right with one out and came in on Erick Aybar’s single to center that tied the game. Lester got out of that inning with just one run scoring when Gordon Beckham lined to center for the third out. He threw 109 pitches.
After a nailbiting save the night before, A’s closer Sean Doolittle took care of things much easier this time for his 20th save. Luke Gregerson was also stellar in a scoreless eighth.
At the plate
The A’s claimed an early lead in the second, when Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on Alberto Callaspo’s base hit and scored on Sam Fuld’s single to center.
Oakland couldn’t do any more damage against C.J. Wilson, who gave up just five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He did walk the first two batters in the fourth, but Callaspo hit into a 5-4-3 double play that doused that rally.
A critical sequence unfolded in the sixth, with Josh Donaldson on first after a leadoff walk. Derek Norris doubled to the left field corner. Donaldson, who isn’t running at full speed due to unspecified ailments, was waved around third and thrown out on an extremely close play at the plate. Bob Melvin challenged, and after a lengthy review, the out call was upheld.
The A’s still had Norris at second with one out, but Gomes took a called third strike and Nate Freiman grounded out.
Should third-base coach Mike Gallego have held Donaldson up at third with no outs? Fair question. The A’s generally are very aggressive in those situations, though Donaldson didn’t appear to be running well and he also seemed to hesitate at second base for a split-second as the ball was headed to the corner.
In the field
After Donaldson was out at the plate, A’s left fielder Craig Gentry came back with a terrific play of his own in the field. He threw a strike to second to nail David Freese leading off the seventh, as Freese tried to stretch a single into a double.
Shortstop Andy Parrino had a couple nice plays in the first, cutting down Collin Cowgill at third as he tried advancing on Albert Pujols’ grounder. Then he ran down Josh Hamilton’s pop-up in shallow left for the third out.
The A’s notched their 13th sellout with a crowd of 36,067. Another fireworks show might have had something to do with it.
Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70) has had good success against the A’s over his career, but they’ve beaten him twice this season and he’s allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. He matches up against Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) in Sunday’s nationally televised game. First pitch is 5:07 p.m.