Zito pitched six solid innings on Sunday night, leading the Athletics to a 7-1 victory over the Angels. It was the sixth time that Anaheim faced Oakland’s “big three” pitchers in the same series and the first since Sept. 17-19, 2002, when the A’s also took two of three.
“All three of those guys are big-game pitchers and they’re definitely part of an elite class,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “That’s why Oakland has been so strong for so long and will continue to be.”
“When we get three of those guys pitching in a series, you know you’re going to get at least two out of three quality starts—if not three,” said rookie Bobby Crosby, who homered and drove in three runs. “As long as we swing the bat a little bit and play some defense, we’re looking pretty good.”
Cy Young winner Zito, Hudson and Mulder are a combined 25-14 with a 3.48 ERA in 48 starts against Anaheim.
“We’ve been dealing with a strong AL West ever since we started here in Oakland,” Zito said. “The Angels are so good, you have to bear down and play your best baseball when you play them. I was trying to bear down with guys in scoring position and I made pitches when I had to.”
Eight-year NL veteran Vladimir Guerrero was 1-for-12 in his first series against Oakland with three strikeouts, and did not hit a groundball in the three games. His only hit was a two-run homer off Mulder.
“We elevated the ball on him, for the most part. That’s a popup waiting to happen if you make the pitch on the inner part of the plate, and we did,” catcher Damian Miller said. “That’s the one guy you really don’t want to let beat you.”
Zito (2-1) allowed a run and four hits over six innings, striking out four and walking one. The two-time All-Star stranded five baserunners in the first three innings before retiring the side in order for the first time in the fourth. His biggest out came in the fifth, when he struck out Garret Anderson for the third out with Oakland clinging to a 2-1 lead.
“They had a lot of good at-bats against Barry and got his pitch count up high, but he made some big pitches to get out of some jams,” manager Ken Macha said.
Chris Hammond pitched the final three innings of the five-hitter for his first save.
Kelvim Escobar (0-1) was charged with four runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings and struck out seven. The right-hander, who signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Angels after going 13-9 with a career-high 159 strikeouts last year for Toronto, has allowed nine runs over 17 2-3 innings in his three starts.
“I feel good and I think I’m throwing the ball very well. I just think I need to get a few breaks and everything’s going to be fine,” Escobar said. “I threw a lot of good pitches today. But on the home run, I left it too much over the plate.”
Zito, who hit only six batters last season in 231 2-3 innings, plunked Darin Erstad and David Eckstein in the first three innings. Eckstein was grazed on the back of the leg leading off the third, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Anderson that tied it 1-all.
Crosby chased Escobar in the sixth with a two-out drive to into the lower seats in the left-field corner scoring Bobby Kielty, who avoided an inning-ending double play by beating Eckstein’s relay throw to first. Crosby’s second homer extended the margin to 4-1.
“I’m feeling more and more comfortable,” said Crosby, who struck out 15 times in his previous 41 at-bats. “That’s something that takes a little time. I haven’t seen any of these guys, so it takes a few at-bats. So as time goes on, I’ll be seeing these guys over and over and it’ll be easier.”
Scott Hatteberg opened the scoring with a two-out, run-scoring single in the first. The Athletics put it away with three more runs in the seventh off BenWeber, including Crosby’s sacrifice fly and RBI singles by Kielty and Miller.
The three sellouts against Oakland drew a combined 130,555 to Angel Stadium. … Oakland’s Eric Chavez, who entered this series with a .333 career average against the Angels, ended an 0-for-17 drought with a seventh-inningsingle. … Eckstein was hit again in the seventh by Hammond.