A's rally to slow Angels' postseason charge
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' bullpen and defense faltered in an 8-7 loss to the A's on Wednesday, putting the club a half-game out of the second American League Wild Card spot. The loss also ended the Angels' seven-game winning streak.
Houston's 7-6 victory over Seattle on Wednesday put the Angels on the outside of the postseason picture, with four crucial games up next against the first-place Rangers in Texas beginning Thursday. The Rangers lead the Angels by three games in the AL West.
"I've been saying this for the last week: We've got to win every game," said Mike Trout, who hit his 41st home run of the season -- one of five homers hit by the Angels. "It starts [Thursday]."
Right-hander Garrett Richards gave the Angels six strong innings, allowing three unearned runs, before the A's rallied back from a two-run deficit in the seventh, scoring four runs while batting around in an inning that began with the third of four Angels errors on the night.
"We didn't play good enough together tonight to win the ballgame, and that's frustrating," Richards said. "But there's still four games left, and we're still in the middle of it."
A's lefty Barry Zito lasted four innings in what was likely the final start of his career, surrendering solo home runs to Trout and David Freese.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taking advantage: The A's plated seven unearned runs on the Angels, whose four errors proved costly. Second baseman Taylor Featherston's fielding error on Eric Sogard's inning-opening grounder in the seventh catapulted the A's to a four-run inning highlighted by Stephen Vogt's go-ahead two-run single.
"It's uncharacteristic," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've given up the fewest unearned runs in our league, and it seems like we gave them all back this afternoon." More >
This time, bullpen falters: After three successful games without closer Huston Street and setup man Joe Smith, the Angels' relievers couldn't hold a lead on Wednesday. Richards exited after six innings with the Angels ahead 6-3, but the Angels surrendered five runs over the next two innings with Richards out. Most of the damage came in the seventh, when Mike Morin loaded the bases before being replaced by Trevor Gott. Gott gave up a bloop RBI single to Mark Canha, walked in a run and allowed Vogt's two-run hit.
"I don't think you're gonna look at anything that our pitchers did and say that they cracked the door open," Scioscia said. "They did a good job. We just can't give a team seven unearned runs. It isn't gonna produce a win."
Shutdown inning: After four A's relievers combined for just five outs while yielding three runs following Zito's departure, Ryan Dull notched the final out of the sixth and proceeded to fire a 1-2-3 shutdown seventh, keeping a 7-5 lead intact. Dull was hit for a solo home run off the bat of Carlos Perez with one out in the eighth, but Sean Doolittle came in to finish the frame and compiled his third save after surrendering a leadoff shot to Kole Calhoun and stranding runners at the corners.
Calhoun stays gold: Calhoun, an American League Gold Glove Award candidate, continued to look the part in right field for the Angels in Wednesday's finale. In a game where the Angels made four errors, leading to seven unearned runs, Calhoun was superb defensively. He made a tremendous, full-extension diving catch on Stephen Vogt's drive to the right-center-field gap in the eighth, and he also kept a runner at third on a potential sacrifice fly with a strong throw home.
"If I bury that slider, it's a zero. And that's three runs off the board, we're partying tonight and that's it. And I feel responsible for it." -- Richards, on allowing a bases-clearing double to Sogard on an 0-2 slider in the fourth inning
JOE SMITH RETURNS
Smith, the Angels' setup man, returned from a sprained left ankle on Wednesday, which had kept him out for 11 days. Smith faced only one batter in the ninth inning, striking out Brett Lawrie. He said he "felt normal," and Scioscia said Smith would have pitched the 10th if the Angels had tied the game. Smith's return is a crucial boost for an Angels bullpen missing closer Huston Street (left groin strain), and Smith could serve as the closer in the Angels' final series against the Rangers.
"It's great to have Joe back," Scioscia said. "He felt good, and that's gonna be important in this Texas series."
Athletics: The A's will enjoy their final off-day of the season Thursday in Seattle before closing out the 2015 campaign with a three-game series at Safeco Field. Right-hander Aaron Brooks will be on the mound in Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT opener against the Mariners.
Angels: The Angels open their last series of the regular season against the Rangers on Thursday, four games in Texas that have the potential to decide the AL West. Rookie left-hander Andrew Heaney starts the opener at Globe Life Park in Arlington at 5:05 p.m. PT.
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