Even when they misfire, A's keep clicking
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OAKLAND -- Josh Donaldson was 0-for-3 at the plate for the A's on Saturday. Brandon Moss had one hit, a single, in three at bats. And Yoenis Cespedes was 0-3 with two bad-looking strikeouts.

That the A's Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters were a combined 1-for-9 is not all that surprising, given the A's recent struggles at the plate. Neither, then, should Oakland nevertheless coming out on top and beating the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 surprise. Because really, the A's offense does not revolve around one or two or even three players. It's a group effort that has helped them get a season-best 18 games over .500 and extend their lead in the American League West to 4 1/2 games.

[RECAP: A's 3, Angels 1]

"That's a strength of our team," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "When a guy, when a Cespedes isn't swinging well or (Josh) Reddick's not swinging well, then there's a (Derek) Norris. There's a (Eric) Sogard. We have a pretty balanced lineup. I've said often, too, we feel like we have a chance to score every inning based on the personnel we have in the lineup so it really is a group-type of offense for us.

"And in a lot of ways it's good we don't really rely on one or two guys to get the job done for us all the time."

Pardon the pun on the cost-conscious A's, but they cannot afford to do such frivolous things, which is why and how they beat the high-priced Angels for the second consecutive game.

Norris' two-run, pinch-hit home run in the seven inning came on the first pitch he saw from Scott Downs. It was Norris' seventh homer of the season and his second in three days. But that's not what the A's pay him to do, right?

"We have quite a few guys that can pick it up," Melvin said.

And they need to do just that at the moment. The slumping Donaldson's batting average dropped to .299, the first time it's been below .300 since May 13.

Cespedes, meanwhile, has not hit a home run since June 21, extending his career-long homerless streak to 24 games. The Home Run Derby champ, who missed the first four games after the break with a sore left wrist, is just 2-for-15 with five strikeouts and three walks since, and is 0-for-his-last-9.

Norris' homer that just cleared the left-field fence gave the A's a sudden 2-1 lead. And after Sogard, who entered the game batting .350 after the break, struck out for the second out of the inning, Coco Crisp singled to center. Then Jed Lowrie burned Angels right fielder Collin Cowgill for a run-scoring double and the A's, as silent as their bats had been through six, were comfortably in the lead. And against a guy who was working on a streak of 29 scoreless appearances in Downs, who had not lost a game to the A's in a major league record 42 appearances.

Until Saturday.

"We don't have that one guy like Chris Davis or Miguel (Cabrera) that's putting up ungodly numbers," Norris said.

Rather, they are like so many complementary widgets that pick each other up.

"It's just Oakland A's baseball," Norris said. "That's what makes us a dangerous ballclub. There's going to be a time when both sides click, and that's going to be scary for teams when they come in to face Oakland."

For now, though, the A's will make do with the parts at their disposal. It's worked so far, right?