Now, they’ll try to even the score.
One night after routing the Angels in the teams’ first meeting of the season, the A’s will look to win for the ninth time in their last 11 games on Tuesday when they continue their four-game series in Anaheim.
An Oakland win on Tuesday would ensure that the surprising A’s (17-10) finish April alone atop the West for the first time since the Angels were known as the California Angels and there were only two divisions in the AL - 1992.
Oakland—which also has the AL’s best record—has won four division titles since then, but the A’s have never had sole possession of the division lead after the season’s first month.
They were hardly expected to challenge this year after finishing 18 games behind Los Angeles (16-11) in 2007 and trading away ace Dan Haren, among other players, in the offseason. But the A’s have won eight of 10 behind a pitching staff with an AL-leading 3.14 ERA.
On Monday, however, it was Oakland’s offense that turned heads at Angel Stadium. The A’s had 16 hits and three home runs in a 14-2 win, breaking the game open with an eight-run seventh inning and breaking a tie atop the division.
Oakland leads the AL with 134 runs.
Daric Barton, Emil Brown and Jack Hannahan all homered for Oakland, while newly acquired Frank Thomas was 3-for-3 with a walk, hitting his first triple since 2002. The 39-year-old Thomas, who helped lead Oakland to the AL West title in 2006, was signed as a free agent last week after he was released by Toronto.
“I saw this team earlier in the year when they swept (the Blue Jays) and I saw how talented they were,” Thomas said. “I saw the good left-handed bats, the great defense and great young pitching. So when all this went down in Toronto, this was the first place I was trying to go to because I still had so many friends on this team.”
Another of the young hurlers, rookie left-hander Greg Smith (2-0, 2.88 ERA), will throw Tuesday, hoping to pitch the A’s to their fourth winning streak of at least three games this season. The A’s have won all four of Smith’s starts this year after acquiring the 24-year-old from Arizona as part of the Haren trade in the offseason.
Smith allowed a home run in the first inning of last Thursday’s 11-2 win against Minnesota, but settled down, allowing just two runs in seven innings and walking only one for his third straight start.
He’ll face an Angels team that has now lost two of three after a three-game winning streak. Los Angeles hadn’t allowed 14 or more runs at home since 2004 before Monday.
The defending AL West champs will try to rebound with Joe Saunders (4-0, 2.55) on the mound. The left-hander will be looking to win his fourth consecutive start for the first time since 2006, when he won four of the first six starts of his career.
Saunders has allowed just 27 hits in 35 1-3 innings this year, and left-handed hitters are batting just .107 against him. The A’s had four lefties in Monday’s starting lineup.