Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo
Oakland, CA -- It's been awhile since these two teams have faced each other. Now it's a battle for first place and while the A's have held the position for half the season, the Angels now own it but in this much anticipated series will determine the better of the two teams.
"It hasn't been our best stretch here recently," said Oakland's manager Bob Melvin pre-game. "We haven't seen them in awhile, hopefully this picks up our intensity and moves us past this difficult period. Hoping the excitement of this series gets us back to doing what we've been doing early in the season."
The A's did just that taking game one of the three-game series with a 5-3 victory over the Angels. Oakland is now one game behind the Angels in the American League West. The offense was most impressive, four different guys drove in runs making it a team effort from all.
"We haven't played like this in awhile," Melvin said.
Mike Trout didn't waste anytime taking Sonny Gray deep in the first after hitting a solo home run making it a 1-0 game. Gray settled in forcing a pop-up, a walk and a fly out to end the inning. Coco Crisp answered with a solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the frame. His ball was hit exactly where Trout did tying the game 1-1.
"Trout hits a home run, then Coco answers, that was big," said Melvin. "That's like, all right, we're fine."
Josh Hamilton extended the Halo's lead with a solo shot to right field. Gray has never allowed a home run in MLB on a curveball before tonight. Both Trout and Hamilton hit home runs off his curveballs. Gray got some defensive help, with runners on second and third in the fifth. Kole Calhoun lined into a unassisted double play at second to end the frame.
The A's tied the game again in the fifth on a fielder's choice. Hector Santiago gave up a double to Crisp and forced Craig Gentry to ground out. Josh Donaldson hit to shortstop Eric Aybar who over threw first base allowing Crisp to score while Donaldson was safe at second.
Gray almost went the distance pitching in the ninth inning until he gave up a walk to Hamilton. Sean Doolittle took over but before he did Gray walked off the mound to a standing ovation. Gray tossed 8.1 innings, walked two, struck out five and kept his pitch count low. He snapped his four-game losing streak, his longest since pitching a compete game on April 28.
"I really didn't change anything, I gave up two solo homers early in the game but other than that I felt like I made all of my pitches,"Gray said. "Everything felt good, fastball, curveball and my changeup. It was important not just for me but the team, we needed to go in here tonight, and get this win."
Sam Fuld's RBI triple in the sixth made it a 3-2 game. Fuld scored on Andy Parrino's sacrifice fly extending their lead 4-2. When Stephen Vogt lined a solo home run to right field in eighth for the insurance run that put Oakland ahead 5-2. The A's now lead the season series against Los Angeles and are 4-0 at home against the Angels.
"We don't want to get too caught up, it's one game," said Fuld. "Given our struggles of late, it was great to get that first one under our belt."
Once Doolittle took over, the Halo's tried to rally back. David Freese hit a RBI single trimming the lead 5-3. Doolittle walked the next batter loading the bases with the tying run on base. Having to work for his 19th save, he struck out Chris Iannetta to end the game after giving up a pair of singles and a walk.
" They battled," said Doolittle. " I think that right there is an example of why they've been so successful lately, winning a lot of close games, coming from behind in a lot of games to get the win."
"We haven't gotten it done up here yet this year, but I think we're a better team now than we've been at any time during the season," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They're a good club over there and they certainly can shut you down when they get a lead. They do a lot of different things, and we have to be ready for it."