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Angels Loss Is Snuff of Dreams

Slim hope of catching A's is now nearly none after a 5-4, 12-inning defeat drops them eight back with nine to play.

September 23, 2006|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — The impossible dream is all but dead. The Angels had to win every one of their 10 remaining games to keep their less-than-slim playoff hopes alive, but the Oakland Athletics extinguished any hope of a miracle finish Friday night.

Marco Scutaro's single to deep left-center, against a five-man infield and drawn-in outfield, scored Bobby Kielty with the winning run in the 12th inning, giving the A's a dramatic 5-4 walkoff victory in McAfee Coliseum and reducing their magic number to clinch the American League West championship to two.

The A's, who increased their lead over the Angels to eight games with nine to play, spilled onto the field to mob Scutaro, the momentum of their celebration pushing the diminutive shortstop and the group around him all the way into shallow right field. Oakland can clinch the division with a win today.

"Our backs have been against the wall for the last month," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "but they're as far back as you could get right now."

The Angels blew a chance to take the lead in the top of the 12th when, with runners on first and third and one out, Juan Rivera grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Kielty then led off the bottom of the 12th with a pinch-hit double, banging an 0-and-2 slider from Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez into the right-field corner, and took third on Jay Payton's grounder to second.

Nick Swisher, who hit a solo home run in the fifth, was intentionally walked, and Scioscia went to his nickel defense, bringing center fielder Chone Figgins to the infield.

But Scutaro, who saw nothing but fastballs from Rodriguez, foiled the strategy by driving an 0-and-2 pitch to the warning track for the game-winner. It was Oakland's 22nd victory in its last 28 one-run games and its seventh straight come-from-behind win.

"A lot of people think I should have thrown him an 0-2 slider in the dirt, but I've faced him many times," Rodriguez said of Scutaro. "I tried to elevate a fastball to see if he'd swing and miss or pop it up, but he got on top of the ball pretty good. The bottom line is I didn't get the job done."

Milton Bradley had broken a 3-3 tie in the eighth when he drove rookie right-hander Jered Weaver's 112th pitch of the game over the right-field wall for a solo home run and a 4-3 Oakland lead.

Setup man Scot Shields was ready when Bradley stepped to the plate, but Scioscia, who'd said before the game "there's nothing to save guys for at this point of the season," stuck with Weaver, even though he was nearing his season high of 113 pitches.

"It wasn't a fishing expedition to send him out there for the eighth -- he was throwing great, his stuff was still there, and we thought he could get outs," Scioscia said. "Bradley was going to be Jered's last hitter. Unfortunately, he caught too much of the plate with a changeup and Bradley drove it."

Shields came on to strike out Frank Thomas to end the eighth, and Oakland Manager Ken Macha summoned closer Huston Street for the fourth consecutive game. Howie Kendrick, whose solo home run in the seventh gave the Angels a 3-2 lead, led off the ninth with a single.

Pinch-hitter Erick Aybar's bloop dropped in front of Payton, but the left fielder threw to second in time to force Kendrick. Figgins fouled out for the second out, and Maicer Izturis flared a ball to shallow left.

Payton, after a long run, attempted a diving catch, but the ball squirted out of his glove and dribbled behind him. Payton, with his eyes toward home, stabbed at the ball several times before finally grabbing it, getting up and throwing home.

But Aybar scored the tying run, giving Street his first blown save since Aug. 18. Izturis took third on Eric Chavez's errant relay throw, but Street escaped the jam with a strikeout of Orlando Cabrera to end the inning.

Shields threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings, and Rodriguez threw a scoreless 11th that featured another Milton meltdown. Bradley, known for his temper, took exception to a full-count slider that was called strike three, and after arguing briefly with umpire Ron Kulpa, he headed toward the dugout.

Bradley then flung his bat violently toward the dugout and was ejected, after which he charged Kulpa. It took a full bearhug from Macha that lifted Bradley off the ground, but the manager restrained his outfielder, and the incident didn't escalate.

The Angels had erased a 2-0 lead with a two-run sixth that featured run-scoring singles by Rivera and Garret Anderson, but the rally died when Vladimir Guerrero, who did not slide into home, was thrown out trying to score from second on Anderson's hit. Chavez's solo homer in the seventh made it 3-3.

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