Angels closer Ernesto Frieri celebrates after recording the final out… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
OAKLAND -- A strong scent of desperation was in the air Wednesday in the Oakland Coliseum, where Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, his bullpen options limited by injury and ineffectiveness, went to extreme lengths to win a game
Scioscia left starter C.J. Wilson in long enough to throw 123 pitches, a decision the left-hander rewarded by rebounding from a 36-pitch first inning to give up two runs and six hits in 61/3 innings and escape bases-loaded jams in the first and sixth innings.
Then, after relievers Michael Kohn and Scott Downs gave up two runs in the eighth, reducing a three-run lead to one, Scioscia turned to willing-and-able closer Ernesto Frieri, whose five-out, 35-pitch, white-knuckle save capped a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
BOX SCORE: Angels 5, Athletics 4
"It's not our preference," Scioscia said of Frieri's extended effort, which helped the Angels end a losing streak at four games. "We're not real comfortable with that. But Ernie said this morning, 'I've got two innings if you need it.' We said, 'No, that's ridiculous,' so we only had him go 12/3 innings."
Scioscia didn't have much choice. Frieri and long man Jerome Williams might be his only reliable relievers, which is why, after solo home runs by Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo helped the Angels take a 4-2 lead through six innings, he squeezed every last ounce out of Wilson before turning to his bullpen.
Kohn struck out Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson in the seventh inning, but after the Angels scored an insurance run in the eighth, Kohn hit Nate Freiman with a pitch to open the bottom of the eighth.
Scioscia summoned Downs, who got Josh Reddick to ground into a fielder's choice, but Luke Montz hit a run-scoring double to center field, and Adam Rosales hit a run-scoring single to trim the lead to 5-4.
Downs suffered a rib-cage injury trying to snag Rosales' hit and was replaced by Frieri, who got Jed Lowrie to fly to left field, walked John Jaso and struck out Seth Smith to end the inning.
Frieri hit Cespedes with a pitch to start the ninth inning. Cespedes stole second but slid past the bag and was tagged out by Kendrick. Donaldson walked, Brandon Moss flied to left field and Reddick walked.
Frieri then got pinch-hitter Eric Sogard to pop up in foul territory to third baseman Luis Jimenez, putting a happy ending on a dismal 2-5 trip through Seattle and Oakland.
"We'll take every win we can get, whether it's a cardiac-arrest situation or a blowout," Wilson said. "We've been going through some difficult stuff, a couple of All-Stars on the disabled list, guys in cold streaks, a couple bad bounces. Today was the exception, where something went our way."
Though Scioscia seemed to manage Wednesday as if it were a playoff-elimination game, he disagreed with a suggestion he was taking a win-at-all-cost, forget-tomorrow approach.
"If you're trying to say that right now our pitching is so thin we've had to open up the carburetor on some guys and let them go a little farther, I would agree with that," Scioscia said. "Normally, in a May game, you'd be more focused on pitch counts."
But pitching coach Mike Butcher "was bearing down on C.J. the whole way, his mechanics, how the ball was coming out," Scioscia said. "He felt strongly that he could go past 100 pitches, and we needed it."