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Swisher steps up as A's edge Angels, pull into tie atop AL West

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- For nearly four years, the Angels' bullpen has been the majors' closest thing to a sure thing.

When it falters, its opponents are almost as surprised as the Los Angeles relievers -- but the Oakland Athletics have a knack for doing the improbable this season.

Nick Swisher drove in the tying run before scoring on Mark Ellis' infield single in the seventh inning, and the A's moved back into a first-place tie with the Angels in the AL West, winning 4-3 Wednesday night.

Adam Melhuse homered and later scored on a wild pitch in a three-run seventh against Scot Shields, one of the majors' best relievers. The A's rallied for their 19th win in 22 games since July 19, when they trailed the Angels by 8½ games.

Los Angeles won the series opener Tuesday night, but the clubs attracted another huge crowd at the normally somnolent Coliseum, with 45,131 fans packing the place -- and this time, they had something to cheer.

Oakland trailed 7-0 in the second inning of the series opener. With a clutch rally and some solid relief pitching in the rematch, the A's provided more of the excitement and clutch play that has propelled them into the playoff race.

"This team has been coming from behind all year," Swisher said. "We just got some guys on base, which is all you can do. They've got a heck of a bullpen. To be able to get that off them is extra special."

Angels rookie Ervin Santana outpitched Barry Zito with six innings of four-hit ball, leaving with a 2-1 lead -- but in the seventh, Jay Payton tripled and scored on Swisher's single off Shields (7-7). The right-hander had allowed just three earned runs in his previous 26 innings.

After Melhuse singled, shortstop Orlando Cabrera couldn't make a difficult play on Ellis' two-out grounder up the middle while Swisher scored the go-ahead run. Shields then hit the backstop on the fly with a pitch to Bobby Crosby, and Melhuse scored without a slide.

"When their hitters get hot, it's hard to stop them," said Shields, whose 10th-inning throwing error cost Los Angeles another game in Oakland on April 16. "I hope it's 1-0, 2-1 in the eighth inning again (Thursday). I want some revenge on them. It hurts when I can't hold the lead for Santana."

All-Star Justin Duchscherer (5-2) pitched a perfect seventh, and Jay Witasick stranded a runner on third in the eighth.

Huston Street gave up Steve Finley's leadoff homer in the ninth -- the first run allowed by the rookie closer since the All-Star break -- but finished for his 14th save in 18 chances. Finley's homer, which snapped an 0-for-14 skid, was the veteran's first since June 10.

Bengie Molina hit a two-run double in the third inning for the Angels, whose normally solid bullpen finally faltered. Los Angeles' opponents entered the game with a .219 average against the relievers -- the lowest mark in the majors.

But Shields, who leads AL relievers with 68 1/3 innings, allowed four hits and three runs. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't worried about his bullpen's busiest member.

"His stuff was fine, (but) we didn't make a couple of plays behind him, and they had some hits fall in," Scioscia said. "The wild pitch certainly didn't help us, but it's just one tough inning. Shields will be fine."

Jeff DaVanon was ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman after the left fielder struck out looking to end the eighth inning.

Swisher's single preserved Zito's eight-game winning streak, though Oakland's ace left-hander didn't get the decision for the first time since June 22. Zito allowed just two hits in six innings, but walked five and hit Vladimir Guerrero with a pitch moments before Molina's double.

After Rich Harden was tagged for seven early runs in the series opener, the A's were hoping for a strong outing from Zito to get back in the series. But the A's ace never got on his game, needing 115 pitches -- 25 in the first inning alone -- to get through six innings.

But Zito wasn't surprised when the A's rallied.

"We're a totally different team than we were in April," Zito said. "We're totally resilient. The team confidence is the reason that we do come back in a game like this."

Molina's double capped a two-out rally in the third. After Darin Erstad walked and Guerrero was hit, Molina hit a drive into the left field corner.

Melhuse, the seldom-used backup catcher getting a rare start as the designated hitter, homered leading off the third.

Notes

  • OF Garret Anderson sat out for the Angels.
  • Guerrero was the 48th batter hit by a pitch from Zito, breaking Tim Hudson's career record in Oakland.
  • Scott Hatteberg and Mark Kotsay both were held out of Oakland's lineup for another day. Hatteberg, who has a strained muscle in his ribcage, will be re-evaluated Friday. Kotsay, who has back problems, could be the A's designated hitter Thursday.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Oakland's Huston Street allows his first homer since July 10 but gets his 14th save.  (AP)
Oakland's Huston Street allows his first homer since July 10 but gets his 14th save. (AP)

Players of the Game
Oakland

A. Melhuse
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
Oakland

M. Ellis
AB 4
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 1
 

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Los Angeles Angels
Chone Figgins, 3B-LF3000120 .284
Orlando Cabrera, SS5000012 .250
Darin Erstad, 1B2110200 .284
Vladimir Guerrero, RF2000111 .314
Bengie Molina, C4022013 .300
    Maicer Izturis, PR-3B0000000 .257
Casey Kotchman, DH3000102 .179
Jeff DaVanon, LF4000024 .237
    Jose Molina, C0000000 .221
Steve Finley, CF4111000 .225
Adam Kennedy, 2B4110010 .322
Totals313535812 
Batting
2B - Bengie Molina (11, Zito)
HR - Steve Finley (9, Street)
SH - Chone Figgins (6)
RBI - Bengie Molina 2 (49), Steve Finley (44)
2-OUT RBI - Bengie Molina 2 (28)
SB - Chone Figgins (38, 2nd base off Zito/Kendall), Maicer Izturis (7, 2nd base off Witasick/Kendall)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Kennedy-Cabrera-Erstad
Los Angeles Angels
Ervin Santana 6411241 4.63
Scot Shields (BS,6; L,7-7) 1433000 2.50
Kevin Gregg 1000000 5.75
WP - Scot Shields (9)
Pitches-Strikes - Ervin Santana 92-59, Scot Shields 22-15, Kevin Gregg 8-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ervin Santana 4-9, Scot Shields 2-1, Kevin Gregg 1-2
Batters Faced - Ervin Santana 23, Scot Shields 7, Kevin Gregg 3
Oakland Athletics
Jason Kendall, C4000000 .269
Mark Ellis, 2B4031000 .310
Bobby Crosby, SS3000112 .290
Eric Chavez, 3B4010002 .277
Dan Johnson, 1B3000101 .317
Jay Payton, CF4110002 .271
Bobby Kielty, LF3000003 .275
Nick Swisher, RF3111021 .255
Adam Melhuse, DH3221010 .257
Totals314832411 
Batting
3B - Jay Payton (1, Shields)
HR - Adam Melhuse (2, Santana)
RBI - Mark Ellis (31), Nick Swisher (58), Adam Melhuse (11)
2-OUT RBI - Mark Ellis (14)
Team LOB - 5
Oakland Athletics
Barry Zito 6322550 3.62
Justin Duchscherer (W,5-2) 1000000 1.83
Jay Witasick (H,15) 1100010 2.38
Huston Street (S,14) 1111021 1.45
HBP - Guerrero (by Barry Zito)
Pitches-Strikes - Barry Zito 115-66, Justin Duchscherer 11-7, Jay Witasick 22-14, Huston Street 23-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Barry Zito 5-8, Justin Duchscherer 3-0, Jay Witasick 1-1, Huston Street 1-0
Batters Faced - Barry Zito 27, Justin Duchscherer 3, Jay Witasick 4, Huston Street 4
Game Information
Attendance - 45131
Game Time - 2:44
Temperature - 67
Umpires - Home - Brian Gorman, First Base - Mike DiMuro, Second Base - Mark Carlson, Third Base - Joe West