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Piazza's ninth-inning blast off of K-Rod lifts A's over Angels

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Piazza's first home run as a full-time designated hitter was a memorable one.

Piazza connected against Francisco Rodriguez with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Oakland Athletics over the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Thursday night.

"I was just fortunate to pick up the team tonight," Piazza said. "These moments are special and you've got to enjoy them. Hopefully, there's a few more. But if these games are going to be like this, I'm going to need a lot of antacid on the bench, I'll tell you that."

Piazza, who has the most home runs as a catcher in major league history, drove a 1-1 pitch just to the right of dead center field for his first homer in 22 career at-bats at Angel Stadium.

"It's a big park out there, so fortunately I got enough," Piazza said. "K-Rod's the best in the business. Fortunately, I got a good ball to hit and didn't miss it. It kind of moved just a little, but I was able to get the hands in and square the ball up pretty well."

Rodriguez knew he made a mistake as soon as the four-seam fastball left his hand.

"I was trying to go down and away, and I left it right down the middle," he said. "When you're facing a guy like that who's a power hitter, you can't make a mistake with him."

Before the game, Rodriguez (0-1) had to respond to reporters' questions about a smudge on the bill of his cap that a blogger spotted. But Major League Baseball would not confirm if any complaints were filed by the Texas Rangers, who faced him twice during the Angels' season-opening three-game sweep.

"If somebody sees something on my hat, they're probably going to think I'm cheating. But I'm not, so I'm not worried about that," Rodriguez said. "They're looking at it in a bad way and trying to make something out of nothing. I haven't heard anything like that in the five years I've been here. At first, it irritated me a little bit, but I can't control that. I have my mind clean. I didn't do anything wrong, so you've got to just let it go."

Justin Duchscherer (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings and Huston Street got three outs for his first save. He had a career-high 37 last year.

It was the 19th one-run decision involving the A's and Angels in the last 38 meetings, and the 26th decided by fewer than three.

"It was a typical A's-Angels game. It felt like last year never ended," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "It was close the whole way, and whoever made the big pitch or the big play or got the big hit was going to win. And we got it tonight with Mike's big homer off of K-Rod. Mike's a Hall of Famer."

Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson hit consecutive solo homers in the fourth for the Angels, who finished second behind Oakland in the AL West last season after winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.

Los Angeles started the season with three straight wins against Texas. The only time the Angels have begun a season 4-0 was 1970, when they opened with a five-game winning streak.

Oakland's Chad Gaudin had a slight edge over Joe Saunders in a matchup of emergency starters.

Gaudin allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none in his 11th big league start and first since June 14, 2005, with Toronto, when he surrendered three home runs in a 7-0 loss to St. Louis. The right-hander was inserted into the rotation because of an injury to Esteban Loaiza.

Saunders, beginning the season in the Angels' rotation along with Dustin Moseley because of injuries to Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver, allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Mark Ellis put the A's ahead 3-2 in the sixth with a sacrifice fly, his eighth RBI in three games. Gary Matthews Jr. tied it in the seventh with another sac fly.

Saunders escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, striking out Bobby Kielty with the bases loaded after giving up an RBI single to Eric Chavez. That failed opportunity came back to bite the Athletics in the fourth, when Guerrero hit a first-pitch homer with one out and Anderson drove a 1-2 delivery to the exact same spot to tie it at 2.

The homers snapped Gaudin's streak of 33 1/3 consecutive innings in the regular season without allowing one. The previous batter to take him deep was the Angels' Juan Rivera, who isn't expected back until sometime around the All-Star break after breaking his left leg in winter ball.

Notes

  • Colon pitched four scoreless innings of one-hit ball for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday night while working his way back from a torn rotator cuff that sidelined him for the final two months of last season.
  • Of the 41 big league ballparks Piazza has played in, the only ones the 12-time All-Star has not homered in are the Metrodome (13 at-bats) and the new Busch Stadium (seven at-bats). He also came up empty in 23 at-bats at Puerto Rico's Bithorn Stadium, where the Montreal Expos played some home games in 2003 and 2004.
  • Both teams announced which players will wear No. 42 on April 15 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first major league game. Oakland will be represented in that regard by Stewart, first base coach Tye Waller and Milton Bradley, who turns 29 years old that day. Matthews also will wear it for the Angels.
 
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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Mike Piazza rounds the bases after hitting the go-ahead homer in the ninth inning.  (Getty Images)
Mike Piazza rounds the bases after hitting the go-ahead homer in the ninth inning. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Oakland

M. Piazza
AB 5
R 2
H 3
HR 1
RBI 1
Anaheim

V. Guerrero
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Oakland Athletics
Jason Kendall, C5000004 .100
Shannon Stewart, LF5120020 .294
Milton Bradley, CF4010101 .375
Mike Piazza, DH5231013 .235
Eric Chavez, 3B5021012 .235
Nick Swisher, 1B3120201 .417
Bobby Kielty, RF4021013 .429
Mark Ellis, 2B2001012 .250
Marco Scutaro, SS4010004 .167
Totals37413436  
Batting
2B - Mike Piazza (1, Saunders), Bobby Kielty (1, Saunders)
HR - Mike Piazza (1, Rodriguez)
SF - Mark Ellis (2)
RBI - Mike Piazza (1), Eric Chavez (1), Bobby Kielty (1), Mark Ellis (8)
2-OUT RBI - Mike Piazza (1), Eric Chavez (1)
Team LOB - 11
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Shannon Stewart 1
Oakland Athletics
Chad Gaudin 5522032 3.60
Alan Embree (H,1) 1100000 0.00
Kiko Calero (H,1) 0.1211100 54.00
Justin Duchscherer (BS,1; W,1-0) 1.2000000 3.86
Huston Street (S,1) 1100000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Chad Gaudin 74-52, Alan Embree 17-12, Kiko Calero 20-12, Justin Duchscherer 22-13, Huston Street 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chad Gaudin 5-6, Alan Embree 2-1, Justin Duchscherer 3-2, Huston Street 2-0
Batters Faced - Chad Gaudin 19, Alan Embree 4, Kiko Calero 4, Justin Duchscherer 5, Huston Street 3
Los Angeles Angels
Gary Matthews Jr., CF3001001 .385
Orlando Cabrera, SS4000002 .176
Vladimir Guerrero, RF4121010 .533
Garret Anderson, LF4111001 .235
Casey Kotchman, 1B4010001 .462
Howie Kendrick, 2B4110011 .267
Maicer Izturis, 3B4010002 .286
Jose Molina, C3010010 .286
   a- Erick Aybar, PH10100001.000
Reggie Willits, DH2010101 .400
Totals3339313  
a-singled for Molina in the 9th
Batting
2B - Vladimir Guerrero (2, Embree), Casey Kotchman (2, Gaudin)
HR - Vladimir Guerrero (2, Gaudin), Garret Anderson (1, Gaudin)
SF - Gary Matthews Jr. (1)
RBI - Gary Matthews Jr. (2), Vladimir Guerrero (6), Garret Anderson (2)
CS - Erick Aybar (1, 2nd base by Street/Kendall)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Cabrera-Kendrick-Kotchman, Cabrera-Kendrick-Kotchman
Los Angeles Angels
Joe Saunders 5.2933350 4.76
Hector Carrasco 1.1100000 0.00
Scot Shields 1100000 0.00
Francisco Rodriguez (L,0-1) 1211011 6.00
HBP - Ellis (by Scot Shields)
WP - Scot Shields (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Joe Saunders 102-60, Hector Carrasco 8-7, Scot Shields 21-12, Francisco Rodriguez 20-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joe Saunders 5-5, Hector Carrasco 2-2, Scot Shields 3-0
Batters Faced - Joe Saunders 27, Hector Carrasco 5, Scot Shields 5, Francisco Rodriguez 5
Game Information
Attendance - 39234
Game Time - 2:59
Temperature - 65
Umpires - Home - Phil Cuzzi, First Base - Jerry Crawford, Second Base - Bill Hohn, Third Base - Brian O'Nora