Baseball / Sports

Angels blank A's again, 2-0, extend division lead

ANAHEIM, Calif.--The almost inexplicable collapse of the Oakland A's went to another level Saturday in a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, a team that used nothing but its bullpen to shut out the highest-scoring offense in the game.

The A's still lead the Major Leagues in runs scored, but in a 12-16 August that ends with Sunday afternoon's series finale, they've been shut out four times, including the last two nights, and have scored three runs or fewer 17 times. Oakland has not scored in its last 22 innings.

Although the A's defense had as much to do with the loss Saturday as the offense, it's the offense that's primarily at fault for the A's (78-57) falling four games behind the Angels (82-53) in the American League West this month. Oakland led by 2 1/2 games when July ended.

On Saturday, the Angels used eight pitchers--seven relievers and a minor league starter who pitched in relief--and the A's couldn't hit any of them. Third baseman Josh Donaldson had two hits, one of them that hit in the dirt in front of home plate and went maybe 15 feet. Everybody else combined for one hit, that by Sam Fuld leading off the ninth.

The Angels defense gave Oakland one chance when the A's loaded the bases with one out in the fourth thanks to a throwing error on catcher Hank Conger, but all pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes could produce was a most routine grounder that went for an inning-ending double play.

The A's defense gave the Angels one chance when second baseman-turned-shortstop Eric Sogard muffed a grounder hit by Howie Kendrick in the bottom of the fourth, and Erick Aybar delivered a single to produce the first run. A second scored on A's starter Jeff Samardzija's wild pitch.

Samardzija allowed just four hits, but on this night, that wasn't nearly good enough. He could have thrown shutout ball for the entire time he was in there were it not for the A's increasingly shaky defense.

With one out and one on in the fourth, Sogard, forced to play shortstop with Jed Lowrie on the disabled list, committed his second error in as many games. Instead of getting a potential inning-ending double play, Samardzija was now looking at a one-out situation with men on first and second.

Aybar, hitting .350 this year against the A's as he came to the plate, didn't let up. He drove a single to right, scoring one run, and when right fielder Fuld made an ill-advised throw to third base, Aybar took second. The wild pitch capped the scoring.

The A's had only one chance to make hay against the Angels' corps of relievers. After Cory Rasmus threw three one-hit innings in his first big league start, lefty Michael Roth took over for the fourth and started out by walking Stephen Vogt, at the time just the second A's base runner.

Donaldson, who'd singled in the first, hit a chopper in front of the plate this time. Conger picked it up and threw wildly past first base as Vogt came around to touch the plate. He was moved back to third by the umpires, who allowed just a two-base advance on the throwing error.

Brandon Moss struck out on a 3-2 pitch from Roth, who was then ordered to intentionally walk Derek Norris to load the bases by Angels manager Mike Scioscia. A's skipper Bob Melvin countered by pinch-hitting for Josh Reddick with Gomes, and Scioscia then replaced the left-handed Roth with right-hander Yoslan Herrera.

Gomes chopped a slow grounder over Herrera's head to second baseman Kendrick. He started an inning-ending double play, and although the game was still scoreless at the time, that was it for the A's.

It was the fifth time in the last four games the A's have left the bases loaded, a mark of just how troubled their offense is.

--Coco Crisp, who reinjured his neck hitting the wall Friday in Anaheim, wasn't in the starting lineup and probably won't play Sunday, either. However, the A's are hopeful their leadoff man won't be out too long.

--The club is getting positive reports on catcher John Jaso (concussion), and he could start doing baseball work on Monday and perhaps come off the disabled list shortly thereafter. Jaso is eligible to come off the D.L. Sunday, but that won't happen.

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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