ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Francisco Rodriguez needed the save more than John Lackey needed his sixth career shutout. So with the Los Angeles Angels’ season dwindling to a precious few games, Lackey graciously came out after allowing four hits over eight innings.
“It definitely had something to do with it,” Lackey said after Rodriguez tied Bryan Harvey’s franchise record with his career-high 46th save in a 2-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night. “I usually argue when I want to stay in, but there was no argument tonight. We definitely want to give him a chance to break that record because he’s had such a phenomenal year and he deserves to do it.”
Lackey, who had a career-high 11 strikeouts, threw just 107 pitches. Rodriguez pitched a hitless ninth, getting Marco Scutaro to ground into a game-ending double play after walking Mark Ellis with one out.
“To be honest, I was a little bit surprised because you know how competitive Lackey is,” said Rodriguez, who had 45 saves last year. “He was throwing a terrific game at that point. So if he went back out, I wouldn’t have minded at all. But I’ve got to say thanks to him and the manager for giving me an opportunity to go out there and get that save.”
Rodriguez, who was 9 years old when Harvey set the club record in 1991, has three more chances to set the record.
“Unfortunately, I’ve never had an opportunity to see Bryan Harvey pitch. But after looking at the stats, it looks like he was a pretty amazing pitcher,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a really special moment for me, to tie that record in my second year as a closer. Now I’ve got to go for it. I need one more, and hopefully in the next three days I’ll have an opportunity to break the record.”
Lackey (13-11) didn’t walk a batter and lowered his ERA to 3.56 in his 33rd and final start of the season. The right-hander went against Barry Zito in the opener of a season-ending series that lost all its luster and intensity once Oakland clinched its third division title in seven years on Tuesday night, dethroning the two-time AL West champion Angels.
“When I picked up the schedule at the beginning of the year,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said, “I thought whoever made up the schedule was a masochist — because we battled those guys at the end of the season for the previous two years. And those games mattered to both clubs.
“We’ve always played gut-wrenching games against those guys every night. Winning last Friday’s game was huge because we guaranteed ourselves one out of those three games and that gave us a chance to clinch it in Seattle.”
Mike Napoli homered and Juan Rivera broke a scoreless tie with an RBI-single against Zito (16-10), who allowed a run and seven hits over six innings and finished the season with a 3.83 ERA. The three-time All-Star became the first Athletics pitcher to reach double digits in losses in four consecutive seasons since Rick Langford (1977-82).
The loss ensures that Oakland will open playoffs on the road, either in Detroit or Minnesota. Macha expects to meet with general manager Billy Beane Friday morning to go over the roster for the AL division series and finalize the starting rotation.
Guerrero was the DH instead of Salmon because of his aching knees. But when he singled on the first pitch he saw in the opening inning, manager Mike Scioscia sent Salmon in to run for him.
Salmon brought the crowd of 41,944 to its feet with a drive that hooked foul in the left field corner. He walked on the next pitch, and Rivera grounded a single up the middle to score Reggie Willits from second.
“At first, I thought he got it and it was gone,” Rodriguez said. “But then I saw the ball carrying foul. I was a little disappointed, but hopefully he’s going to have another shot to get to his goal of 300 homers.”
Oakland’s Milton Bradley was ejected for the third time this season and second time in seven games. He was tossed by second base umpire Wally Bell for arguing from the dugout moments after plate ump C.B. Bucknor called Bobby Kielty out on strikes.
The pinch-running appearance was Salmon’s first since Aug. 13, 2002. … Salmon is 5-for-44 lifetime against Zito. … Angels 1B Darin Erstad, limited to 40 games this season by chronic ankle problems, won’t see any action during the final three games of the season.