Pujols' 18th blast backs Wilson's 2-hit gem
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols homered once again and C.J. Wilson took it from there, tossing seven shutout innings while leading the Angels to a 1-0 victory over the A's on Saturday night.
Wilson entered with a 6.00 ERA over his last five starts, but held the division-rival A's to just two hits and three walks to lower his ERA to 3.60. Kendall Graveman allowed only Pujols' home run despite scattering seven other hits in eight innings, but nonetheless suffered his third loss.
"C.J. threw a great game, and Kendall matched him," A's first baseman Stephen Vogt said. "C.J. made some mistakes and we hit them right at people. Kendall got away with a few, but for the most part he was outstanding."
The A's threatened in the top of the ninth, after Billy Butler drew a two-out walk against Angels closer Huston Street. But pinch-hitter Josh Reddick, who entered with a 1.077 OPS against righties this season, popped out to center field to end the game for a second straight day.
The A's (25-39) have now dropped six of their last eight games while the Angels (32-30) have won four of five.
"He was in the zone early and often, and with good stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Wilson. "He and [catcher] Carlos [Perez] worked really well together, and when he had a chance to put hitters away he did it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hot Albert: Pujols gave the Angels their only run early, with a first-inning solo homer to left field off Graveman. It gave Pujols 10 home runs in the last 15 games -- he also flied out to the warning track on Friday night -- and 1,636 RBIs for his career, tying him with Ernie Banks for 29th on the all-time list. Pujols is now tied with Nelson Cruz and teammate Mike Trout for the American League lead in homers, with 18. Over his last 15 games, Pujols is batting .373 with three strikeouts in 59 at-bats.
"I don't like to talk about it," Pujols said of his hot streak. "It's the same thing I've been doing since Day One, since Opening Day. I told you guys that. Just better luck, I guess. Instead of hitting balls right at people, I'm finding some holes. It's a good feeling."
Unfavorable matchups are unfavorable: The A's only had two left-handed hitters in the starting lineup against Wilson, and both failed to cash in on key offensive chances against the Angels southpaw. Vogt hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, and in the fifth, Sam Fuld struck out with two outs and runners on second and third, chasing a Wilson offering in the dirt for the third strike. More >
"We feel good about the construction of the lineup against left-handed pitching, we just haven't done well to this point," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Flashing leather: The A's were threatening Wilson in the top of the seventh, with two on, one out and the menacing Vogt at the plate. Vogt ripped a liner down the first-base line, but Efren Navarro -- starting in place of Pujols, who served as the designated hitter -- ranged to his left, made the catch and fired to second for the inning-ending double play. Navarro is widely considered a premier defender at first base.
"He makes it look so easy over there because he's so prepared," Wilson said of Navarro. "He's one of those guys, kind of like Adrian Gonzalez where he just has this kind of smooth, under-control pace as a first baseman."
Lawrie lays out: The A's went fairly quietly in the 1-0, two-hit loss, but third baseman Brett Lawrie made a serious defensive gem leading off the bottom the seventh inning. The Angels' Johnny Giavotella ripped a line drive toward the hole between third and short, but Lawrie, diving to his left, snared it at full extension for the first out.
"I made some bad pitches later in the game. They gave us some hard contact," Graveman said. "Brett made a good play on that one to third."
"I was able to do a couple things differently this outing that I haven't done really in my career -- go up with a fastball and throw a breaking ball down. … Just to change eye levels. I'm going to command the ball down, and if you see the guy the third time, fourth time through the lineup and then you change his eye level, sometimes that can be effective -- even if it's not for a strike." -- Graveman, on the positives from his start
"I watched the last episode of 'Game Of Thrones' today and I was really drained. It was very up and down. I was very worried it wasn't going to turn out well for Daenerys Targaryen. My wife and I are big fans of her. Part of my routine is to spend time with the wife and the dogs. Usually it relaxes me, but today it was like, 'Oh man.'" -- Wilson, on an emotionally draining Saturday
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Pujols is the sixth Angels player to hit 10 home runs in a 15-game stretch. The last one to do it was Mo Vaughn from May 8-25 in 2000. Vaughn finished with 36 home runs that year.
A's: The A's will send their ace to the mound in Sunday's series finale against the Angels at 12:35 p.m. PT. Sonny Gray has been dominant all season, compiling a 7-3 record with a superb 1.74 ERA. Even in his three losses, he's given up a total of six runs -- one, three and two.
Angels: Matt Shoemaker gets the nod in the finale of a three-game set, hoping to build on a nice run. The 28-year-old right-hander has given up four runs (three earned) on 13 hits and six walks in 18 2/3 innings over his last three starts, striking out 17 while lowering his ERA from 6.29 to 4.86.
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