The 27-year-old left-hander won his fourth straight start in Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over the Angels, allowing four hits while striking out five and walking one over 5 1-3 innings.
Lilly retired the first seven batters he faced and nine of the first 10, but was lifted with one out in the sixth because manager Ken Macha wanted to use his rested bullpen to focus on matchups.
“Initially, I didn’t agree with it,” Lilly said. “I didn’t really understand it. The decision came down to matchups. … If there’s any point in the season you’d like to be feeling good and pitching well, it’s now.”
Lilly opened the season 5-8 with a 5.22 ERA over his first 19 outings, but is 5-1 over his last 10 appearances, including nine starts.
“He doesn’t have to prove anything,” Macha said. “He’s gone out and gotten four consecutive great starts when we needed them.”
Oakland holds a 3 1/2 -game lead in the West over Seattle, which lost 2-1 to Anaheim on Sunday. The A’s have won 21 of their last 28 games, and have their largest division lead this season.
Tim Salmon hit a run-scoring single and Scott Spiezio followed with an RBI double in the eighth inning for the Angels, who snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday and denied the Mariners a chance to take over the AL wild-card lead.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 1st place, AL West. Angels - 3rd place, 19 GB, AL West.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Lilly (10-9, 4.46 ERA). Lilly is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA in five career starts against the Angels. All three wins against Anaheim have come this season.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Ramon Ortiz (15-11, 4.84 ERA). Ortiz is 1-1 with a 5.97 ERA over his last three starts. The right-hander didn’t receive a decision in Anaheim’s 6-5 loss to Minnesota on Sept. 3, allowing four runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked one. Ortiz missed his next scheduled start to attend the funeral of his father in the Dominican Republic. He is 3-5 with a 6.54 ERA in 10 career starts against the A’s.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Chavez, .279 avg. and 27 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 97 RBIs and 92 runs; Eric Byrnes and Tejada, 9 SBs. Angels - Garret Anderson, .313 avg., 29 HRs, 114 RBIs and 73 runs; Adam Kennedy, 21 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 10-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - SS Tejada has nine homers and 22 RBIs over his last 25 games after managing just two homers and 22 RBIs in his previous 48 games. … The A’s have scored 49 runs over their last six games after managing just 20 in the previous seven contests. … Oakland is 28-18 against the AL West this season. Angels - OF Salmon is hitting .400 in 10 career at-bats against LHP Lilly with two doubles, one homer and one RBI. … The Angels have lost 16 more games than last season. … 2B Kennedy is batting .353 (12-for-34) during a 10-game hitting streak.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 37-38 on the road; Angels - 40-33 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Mark Mulder (leg), 15-day DL. Angels - 3B Troy Glaus (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Darin Erstad (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Wise (elbow), 60-day DL; C Bengie Molina (wrist), 60-day DL; 1B-DH Brad Fullmer (knee), 60-day DL.