A’s grab AL West tie on Angels wild pitch

O.CO COLISEUM — Not many calls went their way. But the A’s battled past frustration with the umpires to emerge with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Angels.

Oh, and they’ve tied for first place. Though first place in the AL West is a day-by-day affair, though, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin.

The A’s winning run didn’t even come on a hit. It came on an error when Coco Crisp scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch from Angels reliever Joe Smith in the bottom of the eighth.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Starter Jon Lester (W, 7 IP, 5 H, 7 Ks,1 ER) was lights out once again. While he didn’t factor in a decision kept the A’s in line for a win during all seven innings he pitched.

Of Lester, Melvin said:

“He brings a lot of tenacity, and you feel it when you play behind him. Guys are on their toes, he works pretty quick. … When you have a big game, he’s the guy you want on the mound.”

The A’s brought Lester in to bolster their odds during the postseason. Though Melvin contends that is an oversimplification, the A’s are locked in a still-undecided race with about a month to go in the season.

The Angels are the team who jacked the top spot out from under Oakland’s noses. On Saturday’s win and sharing first place with the Angels, outfielder Sam Fuld said:

“Every win against the Angels is big. We’re happy to do it. It wasn’t easy, but we’re back. I don’t think there was ever any panic here. We were confident that we’d regroup and catch up to these guys. It was a huge win.”

The A’s scored their first run on a single from Fuld, which scored Jonny Gomes.

Oakland has cleaned up their act on defense, which has helped keep them on the right side of the win column despite the continued lack of offense.

Oakland jumped out of their own shoes during the first half of the season, dominating anyone and everyone on their schedule. Then, in the days surrounding the All-Star break, something happened.

No players could put their finger on it, but something went awry. The team that was domineering and ruthless became very beatable.

That stretch has continued into August, but signs of a turnaround are present.

Lester is 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA over his last nine home starts. Leadoff hitter and spark plug Crisp is 7-for-21, with three runs and three doubles, a jack and a triple over his last five games.

Oakland has won three of their last four games. And they’re one primetime win away from taking firm hold of their division.

But warning signs, big ones, are still there.

Josh Donaldson, who bats in the power bulge of the A’s lineup, is slumping. He’s 3-for-27 (.111) over his last eight games.

Donaldson had a hitless streak in June which exceeded 30 at bats, yet the team was able to bang on without his bat in the order. But with Brandon Moss as Oakland’s only slugger now, the A’s would certainly welcome hits from young third baseman.

Jonny Gomes, who the A’s acquired from Boston in the deal that shipped away Yoenis Cespedes, snapped his own 0-for-10 hitless streak.

Gomeshas been used mostly as a utility hitter, even if he has the most Oakland walkup song of any player, Too Short’s Gettin It.

The song is also accurate for another Oakland player, Sean Doolittle.

Doolittle picked up his 20th save Saturday, though he clutched his side after the second strike of his last batter faced.

Doolittle said he just felt a grab, but team trainers were satisfied with his reaction to a series of tests.

The training staff put him through a regime of stretches, and had him rotate in a way to test for a myriad of injuries. Doolittle says he’s fine:

“It might have been a cramp or something. I was able to do everything they asked me to do from a twisting, and a mobility standpoint. By the time I’d gotten off the field and gotten back (to the clubhouse), whatever it was had relaxed quite a bit.”

Doolittle threw 25 pitches on Friday night and 11 on Saturday. It’s likely he wouldn’t throw Sunday night, which is when the A’s will attempt to sweep their division rival and take sole possession of first place. On national television — ESPN — at 5 p.m. PDT.

Notes

The A’s have won three of their last four games to move into a tie with Los Angeles for first place after dropping five straight games on the road. … Jon Lester is 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA over his last nine starts in his home ballpark (three in Oakland, six in Boston). … Craig Gentry has hit safely in all nine of his games against Los Angeles this year (13-for-34, .382) and now has a 13-game hitting streak against the Angels. … Albert Pujols (1-for-4) snapped an 0-for-8 hitless streak with a single in the second inning.


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