Joe Saunders, Angels roll past Athletics
OAKLAND – Torii Hunter ran right by as third-base coach Ron Roenicke signaled him to stop in the sixth inning. Hunter insists if he’d attempted to hold up, he would probably be hobbling and hurt right now.
Joe Saunders didn’t care how the runs came, he was thrilled with every bit of support he received.
Saunders pitched a complete game, Erick Aybar had a two-run triple among his four hits and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 7-1 on Wednesday night.
Hunter singled in the Angels’ first run in the third and scored to start a four-run sixth when he ran past Roenicke’s stop sign on Juan Rivera’s base hit.
“I’ve been around, I don’t want to do that,” Hunter said, acknowledging he meant no disrespect. “Once I get going, I can’t shut that off. I would blow something out. I just had to keep going.”
Roenicke, typically the bench coach, was filling in for an absent Dino Ebel.
A’s left-hander Dallas Braden dropped to 0-4 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts since his perfect game against Tampa Bay on May 9.
Saunders (5-6) took a shutout bid into the ninth inning before giving up Kevin Kouzmanoff’s RBI single. Saunders, who shut out the A’s 4-0 on May 14 in Braden’s first start after that perfecto, was efficient all night this time in an impressive 101-pitch outing that took 2 hours, 26 minutes.
“Again we run into Big Joe,” Braden said.
Rivera homered in the eighth as the first-place Angels rebounded from a 10-1 loss a night earlier for their seventh win in eight games – and seventh in eight contests at Oakland.
Saunders allowed seven hits, struck out two and walked one in his fourth career complete game. He faced the minimum in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings and got Ryan Sweeney to ground into double plays in the fourth and seventh.
The lefty received plenty of run support to win back-to-back starts for the second time this season. Saunders beat the A’s for the seventh time in the last nine matchups, and his 11 victories versus Oakland are the pitcher’s most against any opponent.
“I was getting quick outs,” Saunders said. “When you feel comfortable on the mound and everything feels right, confidence is key.”
Rivera and Robb Quinlan had RBI singles in the sixth, with Quinlan’s hit chasing Braden (4-6). Aybar then tripled off Brad Ziegler. Hideki Matsui hit a run-scoring single in the ninth.
Improving to 8-2 during their current 14-game stretch away from home, the Angels have won eight games on a road trip for the first time since June 22 to July 1, 1987. That time, they went 8-1 against Texas, Chicago and Cleveland.
A’s center fielder Matt Carson slammed face-first into the wall trying to chase down Rivera’s solo drive, but he was OK and stayed in the game.
“I jostled my jaw a little bit. I saw the replay,” Carson said. “I thought I had another step, and I didn’t. My next step was to put my foot on the wall and there it was. I hit it flat, fortunately. I played water polo and got a few elbows but nothing like that.”
The A’s chuckled about it afterward. So did Hunter, also a center fielder.
“Man, he’s still alive. That’s good,” Hunter said. “I’ve been there before, not on a home run.”
Oakland had little success against Saunders a night after producing a season-high 18 hits to snap a six-game home losing streak to the Angels.
Braden matched a season high by allowing 11 hits for the second straight start. He yielded five runs, four earned, in 5 2-3 innings. Braden said he has been experiencing forearm tightness all week.
“I felt like I couldn’t finish all my pitches,” he said.
Still, he felt good enough to stay in the game.
“I wanted the ball. I wanted to stay in,” Braden said. “Any time I’m in that situation I’m confident I can get outs. I always want to go deep. I guess the numbers weren’t in my favor there. I don’t worry about things like that.”
After Hunter singled home the go-ahead run in the third – it was unearned after shortstop Cliff Pennington’s throwing error started the inning – Oakland left fielder Jake Fox saved a second score with a strong throw to the plate and a perfect lunging tag of Quinlan by catcher Kurt Suzuki.
NOTES: Kouzmanoff matched his career-best hitting streak of 10 games. … Angels 3B Maicer Izturis had the night off. He missed two games with a sore hamstring and knee before returning to the lineup Tuesday night. … Oakland OF Gabe Gross was held out of the lineup after tweaking his back Tuesday while sliding into home. … A’s CF Rajai Davis, whose left hamstring tightened up on a triple Monday, missed his second straight game. Manager Bob Geren said Davis wouldn’t play in Thursday afternoon’s series finale and will be re-evaluated Friday. … Geren’s third baseman son, Bobby, was drafted by the A’s in the 36th round out of San Ramon Valley High. He has committed to Princeton and appears headed to college. “Pretty good opportunity,” the elder Geren said. … Los Angeles 1B Kendry Morales, who broke his left leg jumping on home plate in a celebration following his game-ending grand slam vs. Seattle on May 29, will undergo surgery Thursday.
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