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Abreu takes it out on the A's

July 20, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

OAKLAND — Gary Matthews Jr. wandered over to offer some encouragement to John Lackey: Keep battling, big guy. Hang in there.

"No problem," Lackey told Matthews. "I only need one today."

That was an expression of extreme confidence, considering the game was more than half over and the opposing pitcher was throwing a perfect game.

Turned out Lackey was just stating the facts. Bobby Abreu singled with two out in the seventh inning to break up Brett Anderson's perfect game, then hit a home run against Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey in the 10th inning, enabling Lackey and the Angels to leave town as 1-0 winners.

The Angels had to survive one last tense moment. The A's had the potential tying run on base, with two out in the 10th inning, when Rajai Davis hit a pop fly to shallow center field.

Matthews lost the ball in the sun, then found it at the very last second, cradling the ball as he tumbled onto the grass.

"By the time it came out [of the sun], I had two feet until it hit the ground," Matthews said. "You feel like you're out there on an island by yourself.

"Not a great feeling. But now we've all got something to laugh at."

He was smiling as he said that, and he wasn't the only one smiling in the visiting clubhouse.

Abreu, 35, never had hit a home run in Oakland.

"I didn't realize that," he said. "Now you've come up with something good."

The first-place Angels left town 14 games above .500 for the first time this season. They have won 22 of their last 31 games.

They took the best shot the A's could offer, at least on the mound, and they won. Anderson, a rookie featuring a fastball up to 97 mph, carried a perfect game into the seventh inning.

Chone Figgins took strike one, then grounded out. One out.

Erick Aybar faked a bunt on the next pitch, and the crowd booed. He took strike two, then grounded out on a 95-mph fastball. Two out.

Abreu took ball one, ball two, then strike one. Then he poked a slider toward the opposite field, a ground ball in the hole between shortstop and third base, and into left field.

"I just went with it," Abreu said. "It was the same slider he struck me out with. I thought he would repeat the pitch. I just reached out to go with it."

The perfect game was gone.

"It was in my head," Anderson said. "All I really wanted to do right there was put up another scoreless inning."

The crowd saluted him with a standing ovation. Anderson took off his cap, mopped his brow and went back to work.

He picked off Abreu, and that was the inning.

He gave up two hits in eight innings. He has pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings, in which he has given up seven hits.

Anderson, 21, is one of the six players the A's got from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Dan Haren two years ago.

"The kid's good," Lackey said. "He's got some great stuff. He's going to be around a long time."

Lackey pitched his best game this season, and it would have been his first shutout in two years had the Angels scored in regulation time. He earned the victory nonetheless, scattering three hits over nine innings, with Brian Fuentes picking up his league-leading 28th save.

And how did Lackey compare himself to the A's young stud?

"I'm old," Lackey said with a wide grin. "I'm decent."

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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