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Angels lose control of AL West when closer drops the ball -- literally

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Kendall and the Oakland Athletics didn't steal the lead in the AL West.

Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels simply dropped it.

Kendall alertly dashed home from third base with the winning run when Los Angeles' miffed closer flubbed the throw back from his catcher, putting one of baseball's strangest finishes in years on Oakland's 5-4 victory Thursday.

The A's took sole possession of first place for the first time this season with their second straight comeback win against the Angels' outstanding bullpen. That achievement would be remarkable enough -- but nobody in either clubhouse ever remembered an ending as odd as this one.

"I've never seen that in my life, but that stuff happens in baseball," Kendall said. "You learn early on that you're supposed to always follow the ball. I saw it rolling away, and I didn't think he'd get it back in time. Fortunately for us, I was right."

With Eric Chavez at the plate with two runners on and two out, Rodriguez's first pitch was called a ball. The right-hander stared in and nonchalantly stuck out his glove for catcher Jose Molina's throw, but it glanced away.

Almost nobody in the Coliseum was watching -- but the A's were ready.

"I pointed at the ball, and by the time I looked at Kendall, he had already taken off," said Bobby Crosby, who reached second base on defensive indifference a moment earlier. "I was in shock. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"

"We were all in the dugout yelling, 'Run, Forrest, run!'" outfielder Nick Swisher said.

Kendall sprinted home and beat the throw, sending the A's roaring from the dugout to celebrate their 20th win in 23 games since they trailed Los Angeles by 8½ games on July 18.

Chavez hit a tying three-run homer in the seventh for the A's, who rallied from a four-run deficit. They took two of three from their California rivals, but not even the freewheeling A's could have predicted such a lucky finish -- and the Angels couldn't believe it either.

"A 5-year-old could have caught it," said Rodriguez, who was charged with an error. "I should have caught the ball. It's unfortunate that we lost the game like that, but what can you do?"

Until the bullpen blew it for starter Paul Byrd, the Angels seemed likely to keep their hold on first place, where they had been for all but six days this season.

Vladimir Guerrero homered and drew three intentional walks, including a free pass with nobody on base in the ninth, while Byrd allowed eight hits over six innings and left with a 4-0 lead.

But the Angels' relievers collapsed for the second straight day in front of a thrilled crowd at the Coliseum, where the A's drew more than 117,000 fans for the three-game series.

The Angels' clubhouse was predictably tense after the game, with teammates struggling to find the proper words for their closer's gaffe. Los Angeles has lost 10 of 16.

"I haven't seen a game like that, ever," said Byrd, who's winless in his last five starts. "It's disappointing he didn't make them earn it. It's unfortunate the way the last few innings turned. You don't want to take any credit away from them, but it's a gift."

The bullpen's struggles began in the seventh, when Jay Payton homered on Brendan Donnelly's first pitch. After Mark Ellis and Kendall singled, Chavez cleared the bases with his 20th homer of the season deep into the right-field stands.

Scot Shields blew a lead in Los Angeles' 4-3 loss Wednesday night, allowing three runs in the seventh. Donnelly and Shields are the busiest relievers in the Angels pen, which led the majors in ERA in each of the past three seasons.

And Shields (7-8) blew it again in the ninth, allowing two singles before Rodriguez took over.

"We have the utmost confidence in those guys," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just need to hold leads and close guys out."

All-Star Justin Duchscherer (6-2) pitched two hitless innings to win for the second straight day.

Los Angeles was in control when Steve Finley hit a two-run double in the seventh. Joe Blanton yielded six hits and four walks in six difficult innings for the A's, and Joe Kennedy gave up Finley's hit in his only inning of relief.

Finley, who has struggled with slumps and injuries in his first season with the Angels, hit his first homer since June 10 late in Los Angeles' loss Wednesday night. But with two outs and two runners on in the ninth Thursday, Finley popped out.

Notes

  • Guerrero stole two bases.
  • OF Garret Anderson sat out his second straight game for the Angels after aggravating the tendinitis in his right knee while making a sliding catch in Tuesday's game. He should be available for the weekend series in Seattle.
  • Mark Kotsay returned to Oakland's lineup after missing most of nine recent games because of back problems. Kotsay had two singles as the DH.
 
Copyright 2014 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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A's catcher Jason Kendall is ecstatic after racing home with the game-winning run ...
 
A's catcher Jason Kendall is ecstatic after racing home with the game-winning run ... (AP)
 

Players of the Game
Oakland

E. Chavez
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 3
Anaheim

V. Guerrero
AB 2
R 2
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Los Angeles Angels
Chone Figgins, LF5020001 .285
Orlando Cabrera, SS5110013 .249
Darin Erstad, 1B4000113 .281
Vladimir Guerrero, RF2211302 .315
Casey Kotchman, DH2000104 .167
   a- Bengie Molina, PH-DH0000200 .300
Steve Finley, CF5012005 .225
Maicer Izturis, 3B3110102 .259
Jose Molina, C4000002 .215
Adam Kennedy, 2B4021010 .325
Totals344848322 
a-was walked intentionally for Kotchman in the 7th
Batting
2B - Chone Figgins (20, Kennedy), Steve Finley (17, Kennedy), Maicer Izturis (8, Blanton), Adam Kennedy 2 (15, Blanton, Blanton)
HR - Vladimir Guerrero (23, Blanton)
RBI - Vladimir Guerrero (81), Steve Finley 2 (46), Adam Kennedy (31)
2-OUT RBI - Steve Finley 2 (22), Adam Kennedy (10)
SB - Chone Figgins (39, 2nd base off Blanton/Kendall), Vladimir Guerrero 2 (9, 2nd base off Kennedy/Kendall, 2nd base off Duchscherer/Kendall)
Team LOB - 11
Fielding
DP - Kennedy-Erstad, Molina-Cabrera
PB - Jose Molina (2)
E - Francisco Rodriguez (1, )
Los Angeles Angels
Paul Byrd 6800020 3.88
Brendan Donnelly (BS,3) 1444012 4.04
Scot Shields (L,7-8) 1.1210010 2.45
Francisco Rodriguez 0.1000000 2.66
HBP - Kendall (by Paul Byrd)
Pitches-Strikes - Paul Byrd 79-55, Brendan Donnelly 18-15, Scot Shields 19-15, Francisco Rodriguez 3-1
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Byrd 8-6, Brendan Donnelly 2-0, Scot Shields 2-1, Francisco Rodriguez 1-0
Batters Faced - Paul Byrd 25, Brendan Donnelly 7, Scot Shields 6, Francisco Rodriguez 1
Oakland Athletics
Jason Kendall, C4220002 .271
Mark Kotsay, DH4020001 .272
Bobby Crosby, SS5010024 .288
Eric Chavez, 3B4113005 .277
Dan Johnson, 1B4030000 .325
Bobby Kielty, LF4000003 .272
Nick Swisher, RF4010022 .255
Jay Payton, CF4111002 .271
Mark Ellis, 2B4130000 .317
Totals3751440419 
Batting
HR - Eric Chavez (20, Donnelly), Jay Payton (12, Donnelly)
SH - Mark Kotsay (2)
RBI - Eric Chavez 3 (73), Jay Payton (41)
2-OUT RBI - Eric Chavez 3 (20)
CS - Bobby Kielty (2, 2nd base by Byrd/Molina)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Chavez-Ellis-Johnson
Oakland Athletics
Joe Blanton 6622411 4.05
Joe Kennedy 1222200 6.54
Justin Duchscherer (W,6-2) 2000220 1.77
IBB - Guerrero by Joe Blanton, Guerrero by Joe Kennedy, by Molina, Guerrero by Justin Duchscherer
Pitches-Strikes - Joe Blanton 72-40, Joe Kennedy 30-14, Justin Duchscherer 30-18
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joe Blanton 6-10, Joe Kennedy 3-0, Justin Duchscherer 2-2
Batters Faced - Joe Blanton 27, Joe Kennedy 7, Justin Duchscherer 8
Game Information
Attendance - 31471
Game Time - 3:01
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Mike DiMuro, First Base - Mark Carlson, Second Base - Joe West, Third Base - Brian Gorman