ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After a weekend of Manny Machado-fueled controversy in Baltimore, the Oakland Athletics couldn't get too worked up over Los Angeles Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, who predicted his team "would beat" the A's this week and that Oakland "had a little bit of extra luck" in winning five of its first six games over the Angels.
"Words are just words," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "They don't mean anything unless you put something behind them."
Catcher Derek Norris said "there might be some added incentive" when Frieri pitches, but manager Bob Melvin scoffed at the notion that Frieri's comments would light a fire under the A's, who lead the major leagues in runs and earned-run average and have the best record in the American League.
"We play pretty spirited games anyway," Melvin said. "I don't think what anybody else says is going to make us say, 'OK, now we're going to play harder.' "
Indeed, the A's brought their usual smash-mouth style of baseball to Angel Stadium on Monday night, crashing into walls to rob the Angels of extra-base hits, gunning down an Angels speedster on the bases and immediately retaliating when their star player was knocked down by a pitch.
But the Angels had an antidote that will stop even the hottest team in its tracks: a dominant starting pitcher.
Garrett Richards gave up one run and four hits in seven innings, striking out four and not walking anyone, to lead the Angels to a 4-1 victory that extended their winning streak to four games and cut Oakland's West lead to 31/2 games.
Richards, who failed to make it out of the first inning in his last start against Oakland, when he gave up five runs and five hits in a 9-5 loss May 30, gave up a run in the second inning on Yoenis Cespedes' double and Stephen Vogt's single, but he did not allow another runner to reach second base.
And just for good measure, Frieri, pitching for the fourth consecutive day, backed his statement by striking out the heart of the A's order -- Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Cespedes -- in the ninth for his 11th save.
The superb pitching performance helped ease the sting of some bad mound-related news for the Angels, who scratched Tyler Skaggs from Tuesday night's start because of a right hamstring strain that will send the 22-year-old left-hander to the disabled list.
Left-hander Hector Santiago, demoted to the bullpen May 9 and to triple A on May 21, will start against the A's.
Skaggs, who is 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts, left Thursday's game in Houston "a little sore," manager Mike Scioscia said, and the Angels didn't want to risk further injury.
"We're doing this more as a precaution to make sure he gets it behind him," Scioscia said. "We don't anticipate him being out for more than two weeks, but hamstring injuries can take on a life of their own."
Santiago was 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in seven starts, though one of his best games was April 14 against Oakland, when he gave up one run and five hits in seven innings of a no-decision.
The Angels moved Santiago to the bullpen, where he made two appearances in 11 days, and then to Salt Lake, where he could remain stretched out as a starter. He was 1-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three triple-A games.
"He's making progress with his command, and he feels much better about what he needs to do on the mound," Scioscia said of Santiago, "so hopefully he'll bring it into the game tomorrow."
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