Angels' Vargas blanks A's

Joe Haakenson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jason Vargas' fastball doesn't travel much faster than some of the cars that race up and down the freeway behind Angel Stadium. Fortunately for him, he doesn't rely on velocity.
Vargas threw his second shutout of the season and the fifth of his career to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-0 victory over the Oakland A's on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
Vargas effectively mixed his pitches, relied heavily on his changeup and finished the game in 110 pitches. He gave up four singles, walked one and did not allow an A's runner to get past first base.
"He pitched well, in and out, used his changeup effectively, pitched backwards," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We've had a tough time with him in the past. To throw nine innings against a team that's been swinging really well as of late, you pitched well."
Vargas got help from his defense, which turned two double plays, and from center fielder Josh Hamilton, who threw out Alberto Callaspo trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth inning.
In the ninth, impressive defensive plays by first baseman Mark Trumbo and left fielder Collin Cowgill ensured the shutout.
"We made some defensive plays that really kept it where it was," said Vargas, who struck out five. "We put together a good one tonight."
Hamilton came up with the key hit of the game, a two-run single off A's starter A.J. Griffin (14-10) in the third inning. Howie Kendrick's solo homer in the first inning accounted for the Angels' other run.
With the win, Vargas snapped a streak of four starts without a win during his roller-coaster season. He was 5-0 in May, including a shutout May 3 against the Baltimore Orioles, on the way to being named the American League pitcher of the month. He subsequently missed two months because of surgery to remove a blood clot in his armpit area, and he was 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA in eight starts since returning from the disabled list before Tuesday's gem.
"He had a good angle on his fastball and mixed his breaking ball in," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He threw some off-speed on some off counts and had good fastball command. He knows what he's doing out there."
The A's (94-64) missed a chance to tie the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League. They remained one game back.
Griffin gave up three runs and five hits in five innings to get the loss, his first in his past six starts.
"He didn't pitch bad," Melvin said. "When you get shut out, you give up one homer and a bloop that scores two ... They just spoiled some pitches with some foul balls and got his pitch count up after five, and I wasn't going to extend him too far over. All in all, usually in a game like that, you're keeping your team in the game."
Kendrick homered with one out in the first inning to give the Angels a 1-0 lead. It was the 36th home run of the season allowed by Griffin, the most in the majors and fourth most in Oakland A's history for a single season.
The Angels (77-80) increased their lead to 3-0 in the third, as Hamilton's single with the bases loaded drove in two runs.
NOTES: A's RHP Grant Balfour allowed nine runs (eight earned) in his past 11 outings (10 2/3 innings) for a 6.75 ERA. During that stretch he has six saves, two blown saves and one loss. ... Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson entered the game having reached base safely via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in 28 consecutive games, but the streak ended when he went 0-for-3. It was the longest such streak by an A's player in the past five years. ... Trumbo needs one homer and one RBI to reach 35 and 100, respectively, for the season. No Angel has reached both of those figures since Vladimir Guerrero in 2004. ... Angels RHP Ernesto Frieri has 36 saves this season, including a major-league-high seven saves of more than three outs. It is the most saves of more than three outs since Brian Wilson had 10 and Carlos Marmol had eight in 2010.

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