Athletics 1, Angels 0, 10 innings
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—With their offense in a paralyzing funk, the Oakland Athletics needed strange tactics, a big stroke of luck and a risky baserunning decision just to score one run.
After Harden and Jarrod Washburn dueled through eight scoreless innings, Nick Swisher scored from first base on reliever Scot Shields’ throwing error in the 10th inning of the A’s 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
It was strange to see Marco Scutaro lay down a sacrifice bunt for the A’s, who have all but abandoned the bunt under general manager Billy Beane’s beliefs about the sport. But after Swisher led off the 10th with a single, Scutaro bunted—and Shields bobbled the ball, then made a bouncing throw past Chone Figgins at first base.
Though strong-armed Vladimir Guerrero was chasing down the ball in right field, Swisher raced for home—and he slid headfirst into the plate ahead of the AL MVP’s throw.
“Who thinks you’re going to go from first to home on a bunt?” Swisher asked. “It felt like as soon as I hit third base, (on-deck hitter Mark) Kotsay was telling me to slide. We had to take a shot, though.”
The A’s hadn’t scored in 14 innings before their extra-inning rally against Shields (2-1), who threw just six pitches.
“It was my fault,” Shields said. “I didn’t field the ball cleanly. I should have slowed down and got a grip on it. I had plenty of time. If I take my time, I have him, easy.”
Oakland has scored just 13 runs in the first five games of its homestand, winning two.
“It was a goofy play, but we’ll take it,” said Kotsay, the only Oakland player batting above .300. “It’s no secret our offense is struggling a little bit, and we’ve got to do things to score runs.”
Calero (2-0) pitched two perfect innings of relief for the victory, while Harden and Washburn got no decisions despite outstanding starts.
Harden had eight strikeouts, allowing four hits and two walks in his second start of the season. Washburn was equally superb, also allowing four hits and two walks, striking out seven with the same flair.
“Wash and Harden pitched as well as two guys could in the matchup,” said Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia, who thought Scutaro might have been in Shields’ way while fielding the decisive bunt.
Though Harden’s first regular-season start was pushed back by a blister, he has built on a stellar spring in which he led the Cactus League with 29 strikeouts.
He allowed just two Angels to reach third base while shutting down the heart of Los Angeles’ order: Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Steve Finley were 0-for-8 with a walk against Harden. Rookie Macier Izturis twice was stranded on third base.
“I’m not really feeling great yet,” Harden said. “My velocity is down a little bit, but my changeup helps. In the past, I’d just try to throw the ball by people, but now I’m using more of my pitches.”
Washburn, who was hit hard by the Texas Rangers on Monday, was every bit as effective for the Angels, allowing just three runners to reach second base. Oakland got two runners on board in the first and third innings, but Washburn stifled the rallies.
“Guys in the dugout were saying, ‘Is that guy throwing an invisiball, or what?”’ Swisher said.
After Eric Byrnes’ two-out single in the eighth, Izturis allowed Jason Kendall’s grounder to roll through his legs at third base. Byrnes reached third on the error—but Eric Chavez took a called third strike on Washburn’s 113th pitch.
“A few times, my command wavered, but for the most part, I used both sides of the plate,” Washburn said. “All my pitches were working. … (Harden) has an awfully bright future ahead of him. I wish I had some of his stuff.”
A’s DH Bobby Kielty had another miserable day, striking out three times before getting pulled in the ninth. Kielty is 0-for-13 this season. … Finley continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounding into a double play. … Neither manager even warmed up a reliever in his bullpen until both starters had surpassed 100 pitches, and both starters got ovations from the Coliseum crowd when they escaped their eighth-inning jams.
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