A’s fall in season opener
April 7, 2009
ANAHEIM ” Howie Kendrick pronounced it a very fine opening day for the Los Angeles Angels.
“I don’t think you could ask for more,” Kendrick said after the Angels got good pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting in a 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Kendrick hit a solo homer and singled in another run. Joe Saunders, filling in for John Lackey, checked Oakland on three hits over 6 2-3 innings. Jose Arredondo, Scot Shields and newcomer Brian Fuentes followed and didn’t allow a baserunner. Fuentes, replacing Francisco Rodriguez, earned his first save with the Angels.
Catcher Jeff Mathis threw Mark Ellis out at third on the front end of an attempted double steal in the third inning, and center fielder Torii Hunter, shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Chone Figgins also came up with good defensive plays.
“Give the defense an A-plus,” Saunders said after his first opening-day assignment. “It was an honor just for me to be out there.
“Then the fans gave me a standing ‘O.’ It was special.”
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Saunders, whose 17-7 record was the Angels’ best last season, and Jered Weaver are the only two regulars in Los Angeles’ rotation. Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar are on the disabled list and expected to miss at least the first month.
Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia, who took Saunders (1-0) out of the game after he got the first two batters in the seventh and ran his pitch count to 93, was pleased with the left-hander’s performance.
“That gives us a big lift, especially when some of the guys we’re counting on (in the rotation) are not available now,” Scioscia said. “It was a great effort. His stuff was alive, and he was right on the money.”
Matt Holliday and Eric Chavez singled in the second inning and former Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera led off the sixth with a double for Oakland’s only hits.
Dallas Braden, up and down between Oakland and the minors the past two seasons, allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings.
The 25-year-old Braden (0-1) was making just his 25th big league start. He drew the opening-day assignment because staff ace Justin Duchscherer is coming back from arthroscopic elbow surgery.
Braden labeled his outing as “extremely average.”
“If you’re going to pitch in the one slot, it’s got to be better than that,” he said. “You’re going to be competing against guys who hold offenses to one and two runs all year long.”
The shutout was the Angels’ first in an opener since 1978 ” when they beat the A’s 1-0. Oakland was blanked for the third time in its last five season-opening games.
Kendrick and Vladimir Guerrero had RBI singles in the third, and Kendrick drove a 2-1 pitch from Braden over the wall in right-center in the fifth.
The Angels have won the AL West four of the past five years and are coming off a 100-win season that was the best in the majors, although they again lost to Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Los Angeles finished spring training with a 26-8 record that also was baseball’s best.
The A’s finished 75-86 last year, third behind Texas in the West.
Notes: Holliday became the 10th different opening-day starter in left field for the A’s in as many years. … Saunders is the first left-hander to get the nod for the Angels on opening day since Jarrod Washburn in 2002. They went on to win their only World Series that season. … Hunter will receive his eighth consecutive Gold Glove before Tuesday night’s game.