Baseball / Sports

Angels fall to Athletics but are encouraged by recent play

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- To hear pitcher C.J. Wilson tell it, the Los Angeles Angels might look back on their most recent trip as the turning point of a season.

The club won only three of 10 games on the trip, which included the Angels being swept in three games by the division-leading Athletics in Oakland. Then the Angels lost two of three in Houston.

But rather than return home flat and dispirited, the Angels swept three games from the Chicago White Sox and, despite a 7-1 loss to the Athletics on Wednesday night, won two of three from Oakland at Angel Stadium.

Stephen Vogt, with a two-run home run, led the Athletics' attack against Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver on Wednesday night. The loss snapped the Angels' streak of five consecutive wins and dropped them 31/2 games behind Oakland in the American League West.

Even so, the Angels' rebound from the trip illustrated how "for us to jell (as a team) we needed to go through adversity," Wilson said. "Getting swept in Oakland really angered a lot of people.

"We were then all very determined to get off to a good start in Houston," he said. "Obviously we didn't get off to a good start, but that's almost an even better test."

Noting the Angels' combination of superstars, veterans and "a lot of young guys who are really, really hungry," Wilson said the trip proved to him that "they're going to look at adversity as a challenge, not something to shy away from."

Winning two of three against the Athletics at Angel Stadium also enabled the Angels to serve notice that they plan to challenge Oakland throughout the season.

Oakland closer Sean Doolittle said he expected nothing less. "They're a really good team," he said of the Angels. "It's going to be a dogfight all summer."

Angels catcher Hank Conger agreed. "We've always had mutual respect toward each other," he said. "We know each series we play against them, we know it's going to be a tough game."

The Angels' play also meant that Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri called his shot, at least for the most part.

After the Angels had swept the White Sox, Frieri on Sunday predicted his club would defeat the Athletics this week. "We're going to beat them," he said.

It was a brazen pronouncement, but one that reflected how winning breeds confidence, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

"You can talk about ... coming out here and playing hard and playing with confidence, but winning ballgames is the most important ingredient," Scioscia said.

Last year "we looked like we were playing hard and we were confident, but we just weren't moving forward ... because we weren't winning ballgames like we needed to," he said. "This year we've been able to reverse that.

"I'm very excited to see how this team keeps improving and evolving," Scioscia said. "I don't think there's anybody in that room that doesn't feel we're going to contend for a championship."

(Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.)

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