Angels 6, Athletics 2
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Three souvenir bottles of bubbly belonging to Frank Thomas from Chicago’s World Series championship last year remained corked on the floor beside a box of his bats.
The Oakland Athletics must wait at least another day to celebrate an AL West title.
Juan Rivera hit a go-ahead, three-run double in the sixth, John Lackey pitched seven strong innings and the Los Angeles Angels prevented Oakland from clinching the division on Saturday with a 6-2 victory over the A’s.
“No party today,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
Oakland’s magic number to clinch its first AL West title since 2003 remained at two, so the A’s could still do it at home with a win in Sunday’s series finale. They lead Los Angeles by seven games with eight to go, including the final four of the season against the Angels in Anaheim.
“We’ve just got to figure out a way to win tomorrow,” Thomas said. “It’s not going to be easy. They’re here to win.”
The A’s, who won Friday’s opener 5-4 in the 12th inning, had their four-game winning streak snapped with only their second loss in 10 games. They still hope to celebrate on their home field after watching the Angels do so at the Coliseum the past two seasons.
“I think there’s a pretty healthy respect for what the Angels have the ability to do and what they’ve done in the past,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said before the game. “Nothing’s over ‘til it’s over. … I don’t think it’s being viewed as payback.”
“You don’t need to get hit with a brick in the head to know that it’s a must-win,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “These guys won’t melt.”
Lackey (12-11) pitched a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory in Oakland on July 7 and looked great again. He struck out five and ended a two-start losing skid, allowing two runs and four hits.
“He was dirty,” said Jay Payton, whose leadoff double in the fourth was the first hit allowed by Lackey. “He came out on a mission today.”
Nick Swisher singled home Payton moments later to tie the score at 1.
Lackey improved to 8-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 career starts against the A’s, matching his career high with 124 pitches.
“He was almost unbeatable,” Oakland’s Eric Chavez said. “I put him up there in the top five pitchers in baseball.”
“It was kind of a pride thing,” Lackey said. “It was kind of motivational. I didn’t want to watch it (a celebration) on my day. We still mathematically have a chance. We’re going to go down fighting.”
Joe Blanton (16-12) intentionally walked cleanup hitter Garret Anderson in the sixth to load the bases for Rivera, who hit a shot to left. Payton terribly mistimed his jump and the ball hit the wall, though he likely would have had a tough time making the play anyway. Adam Kennedy followed with an RBI double for a 5-2 lead.
Blanton, who was looking for his team-leading and career-best 17th victory, remained winless at 0-6 in seven career starts and nine appearances against the Angels with a 3.81 ERA.
“I feel like every time I face them I catch bad breaks that end up costing me,” Blanton said.
He allowed consecutive singles in the third before Figgins’ sacrifice fly made it 1-0. Rivera’s double was his 26th and one of three against Blanton in the Angels’ four-run sixth.
Rivera is batting .343 (35-for-102) with runners in scoring position. His eighth-inning single chased Blanton, who allowed Vladimir Guerrero’s leadoff double that also got past Payton in left.
Blanton is 8-3 in 11 day games. He has a 6.98 ERA in September. … Longtime A’s public address announcer Roy Steele, who has dealt with a serious throat condition for more than a year, returned to the booth for the first time all season to call the game. … Scioscia tweaked his lineup slightly with Kennedy back in at 2B and Jose Molina catching. … The A’s sold out for the second straight game and 12th time this year.