ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Back in the rotation, Kelvim Escobar
pitched brilliantly. So did Oakland rookie Joe Blanton -- with nothing to show for it.
Escobar returned from an elbow injury in top form, combining with two relievers on a four-hitter, and Steve Finley homered in the seventh inning to lead the Los Angeles Angels over the Athletics 1-0 on Sunday.Blanton (0-2) allowed six hits over eight innings in his fourth big-league start. The right-hander struck out two, walked one and stranded three runners in scoring position."That's two great outings for Joe on this road trip, and two losses," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "He was magnificent today. He used all his pitches, and the command of his off-speed stuff was great. You can't do any better than that."Blanton was attempting to become the third pitcher in this three-game series to earn his first major-league win. Teammate
Keiichi Yabu pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit relief in Oakland's 4-3 victory Friday night. Jake Woods was the pitcher of record for the Angels in Saturday night's 9-5 triumph, retiring three of his four batters."It would be nice to get my first win, but I'm trying not to think about it, honestly," said Blanton, who has a 1.75 ERA. "If I keep pitching and keep us in the game, we're going to score some runs and it'll come."The Angels took the lead in the seventh on Finley's third homer, a drive to right field on Blanton's 77th pitch."He was throwing strikes all night with everything, so you just try to get a good pitch and do something with it," Finley said. "I was just looking for a fastball and he gave me one I could hit."It was nice to get that one. I've been hitting a lot of balls hard, just right at people. But I put a good swing on one where nobody could get that one," he said.Scot Shields (3-1) got the win, allowing one hit in 1 2/3 innings. Francisco Rodriguez got four outs for his fourth save in five attempts, two nights after blowing a save on Scott Hatteberg's go-ahead single with two outs in the ninth."You're going to have your good days and you're going to have your really rough days," Rodriguez said. "That's the way the job is. You've got to not put that pressure on you and just get yourself ready for the next game."Rodriguez retired Eric Chavez with a runner on second to end the eighth, dropping Chavez to 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position this season. The right-hander then got pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse on a grounder with a runner on second to end it.Escobar, making his season debut, struck out the side on 14 pitches in the first inning. He threw 82 pitches over six innings, striking out seven, walking three and allowing a pair of harmless singles by Hatteberg and Keith Ginter.Oakland's Jason Kendall, facing Escobar for the first time in his 10-year career, struck out his first two times up against the nine-year veteran. Kendall had averaged only one strikeout for
every 14.6 at-bats over the previous four seasons."It was very exciting," Escobar said. "I felt good since I warmed up in the bullpen. One thing I told myself was to relax and just pitch and keep the team in the ballgame. I was pitching aggressively and pounding the strike zone."Hatteberg, who was 7-for-11 in the series, greeted Shields with a double leading off the seventh but was erased in a rundown between third and home after Eric Byrnes' grounder to Chavez at third. Byrnes was stranded at second moments later when Ginter
popped out.Blanton escaped another jam in the first, retiring Garret Anderson on a double-play grounder after a one-out triple by Chone Figgins and a walk to Vladimir Guerrero. Anderson doubled with one out in the fourth but was stranded when Blanton retired Finley on a popup and Orlando Cabrera on a groundout.The A's rookie escaped the fifth unscathed with help from right fielder Bobby Kielty, who robbed Darin Erstad of extra bases with a diving catch in the alley that left Jeff DaVanon stranded at second base. Opposing hitters are 0-for-14 against Blanton this season with runners in scoring position.
It was the third time Oakland has been shut out this season, matching last year's total. ... Blanton faced the Angels twice last September as a middle reliever, allowing six runs in 10 1/3 innings -- despite retiring nine of his first 10 batters both times. ... The Athletics, perhaps inspired by the Angels' five stolen bases against them on Saturday, were 1-for-2 in steal attempts against catcher Jose Molina. They were 1-for-3 in their first 18 games combined.