Gonzalez pitches A’s to 3-0 win over Angels

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Oakland Athletics want to leave town before the Los Angeles Angels wrap up another AL West title. Rookie Gio Gonzalez(notes) did his part with his third scoreless outing of the season.

Gonzalez outpitched Jered Weaver(notes) and the last-place Athletics beat Los Angeles 3-0 on Friday night, keeping the Angels’ magic number at four for clinching their fifth division title in six years.

“They’re a great ballclub, they’ve proven that all year, and they’re close to clinching. But obviously, you don’t ever want to watch another team celebrate,” reliever Michael Wuertz(notes) said.

The Angels, just 16-16 since Aug. 22, are trying to become the first AL West team to win three straight division titles since Oakland accomplished the feat from 1988-90. They have a seven-game lead on the Rangers, who beat Tampa Bay 8-3 in Texas.

Gonzalez (6-6) allowed four hits and a walk over 6 1-3 innings and struck out seven in his 16th start, after going 1-4 with a 7.01 ERA over his previous seven. Oakland leads the majors with 111 starts by rookie pitchers, the most by the club in one season since the franchise left Kansas City following the 1967 campaign.

The 23-year-old left-hander tried a new grip on his two-seam fastball, something he’s been working on with pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Ron Romanick, and it made a difference.

“We were talking before the game about feeling that competitive attitude, just going out there and trying to attack,” Gonzalez said. “I had all three pitches working tonight, which I was grateful for. Even my changeup had some effect, and I was keeping it down in a good changeup velocity. I was throwing the curveball for strikes, and you can always be a happy pitcher when stuff like that works.”

Andrew Bailey(notes) pitched a hitless ninth for his 26th save in 30 chances, sending the Angels to their seventh loss in 11 games and sixth shutout loss of this season.

“A lot of guys in our lineup are soft right now. And until we start to get that good two-strike approach, we’re going to have to scrap for runs,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ll tinker with the lineup tomorrow. But when you strike out 28 times in two games, that’s a lot of easy outs for the other club. We’re better than that, and we’ll come out of this.”

Wuertz, Bailey’s setup man, got all five of his outs on strikeouts to raise his season total to 100—the second most by any reliever and 12 behind Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton(notes).

“I knew it was within reach. But did I ever think it was going to happen tonight? No chance—especially against a team like that,” Wuertz said. “That’s a great hitting lineup with a bunch of scary hitters. But when you get on a stage like this with a lot of people in the stands, you just step it up a little bit and battle them.”

Weaver (15-8) pitched six innings, allowing two runs and six hits, including RBI singles by Adam Kennedy(notes) and Daric Barton(notes). The right-hander has lost three consecutive starts for the first time in 3 1/2 big league seasons, but he wasn’t up to par in this one because of stiffness in his upper back.

“It’s just one of those things I go through every year—just a little tightness—and it just wouldn’t loosen up for me,” Weaver said. “It didn’t hurt, or anything like that. It just restricted me and kept me from getting out in front and finishing off some pitches.”

Weaver, who came in with a career-high 168 strikeouts, got his only one of this outing on his 60th pitch—when he fanned Jack Cust(notes) with runners at first and second to end the fourth inning.

Weaver and Gonzalez matched zeros until the fifth, when Kennedy singled in Barton with two out. Barton led off the inning with a walk, one of three allowed by Weaver.

Barton made it 2-0 in the sixth with a two-out single after Ryan Sweeney(notes) led off the inning with a bloop double that glanced off the glove of shortstop Erick Aybar(notes) in short center field.

Oakland got its third run with the help of two throwing errors by catcher Jeff Mathis(notes). Eric Patterson(notes) singled, stole second and continued to third after Mathis’ toss struck the runner and caromed into the outfield. Mathis compounded the miscue by trying to pick off Patterson and throwing it past third baseman Chone Figgins(notes).

Cust, who struck out more times than any AL player in each of the last two seasons, again is atop that list with 176—13 more than Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena(notes), who is done for the season because of two broken fingers. The last batter to lead the AL in strikeouts for three straight years was Minnesota’s Bobby Darwin (1972-74).

Angels designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero(notes) was 0 for 4, dropping his average to .296. The 2004 AL MVP, who missed 35 games with a torn chest muscle and another 21 with a left calf strain, is trying to join Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn(notes) as the only players in the last 50 years to hit .300 or better in 13 consecutive seasons.

NOTES: The Angels are 23-25 against the AL West—the only first-place team that has a losing record within their division. … The sellout crowd of 43,242 pushed the Angels’ home attendance total past the 3 million mark for the seventh straight season.

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