Final in 10

Series: Game 1 of 3

LA Angels leads 1-0 (as of 8/9)

Game 1: Tuesday, August 9
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in 10
Game 2: Wednesday, August 10
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Game 3: Thursday, August 11
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Angels 9

(65-47, 31-23 away)

Athletics 2

(64-48, 35-19 home)

10:05 PM ET, August 9, 2005 Coliseum, Oakland, California 

LAA - -
OAK - -

W: J. Lackey (10-4)

L: R. Harden (9-5)

Angels regain AL West lead, knock A's into second

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Except for Vladimir Guerrero's emphatic fist-pump as his grand slam soared over the fence, the Angels gave no indication this win was anything special.

Tell that to the 40,774 fans who packed the Coliseum in anticipation of another win and sole possession of first place for their Oakland Athletics.

Guerrero's grand slam staked Los Angeles to a seven-run lead in the second inning, and John Lackey pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-2 victory over the A's on Tuesday night, knocking Oakland out of the clubs' tie atop the division standings.

Guerrero had five RBI and Darin Erstad drove in two more runs as the Angels capitalized on another shaky start by Rich Harden (9-5) to remove all the drama from the first contest of a key three-game series between the rivals.

With 50 games left in both clubs' seasons, the game clearly wasn't everything -- but though the Angels denied it, the victory showed they have no plans to step aside for the streaking A's.

"Coming into this series, there's a lot of hype on it being pivotal, [but] I don't think it is pivotal," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's too much baseball left. ... The top of our lineup just did a good job, and a couple of big hits from Vlad kept it going."

The California clubs began the week with identical 64-47 records after Oakland closed an eight-game gap in the last three weeks. The A's had won 37 of their last 45, streaking into the playoff race after falling 15 games below .500 earlier in the year -- and they caught Los Angeles atop the division last weekend before opening this 12-game homestand.

But the Angels have been in first place for all but six days of the season, and their struggling offense might be ready to emerge from its funk.

"It's not a big game," Guerrero said through first-base coach Alfredo Griffin. "It's very important to win today, but just to break the streak they had."

Though the A's helped out with two costly errors, Los Angeles had eight hits in the first two innings against Harden, who got nine strikeouts with his 98-mph fastball, but was hurt by those fielding miscues and funny bounces.

"Everything that could possibly go wrong did," Harden said. "Things are going well for us, so something like that was bound to happen. Everything I was trying to do, they were right on it."

Staked to a huge early lead, Lackey (10-4) easily won his career-best fourth straight decision. He allowed five hits and struck out six without allowing a runner to reach third base.

The loss was the A's third in the last 20 games, and their fifth since the All-Star break. Trailing 9-0, Oakland avoided the shutout with Eric Chavez's two-run homer off Joel Peralta in the eighth.

The Coliseum was unusually packed for the first-place matchup, but the fans weren't even comfortable in their seats before Harden fell apart.

He gave up a leadoff double to Chone Figgins, who eventually scored when Mark Ellis booted Erstad's grounder at second base. Guerrero added a run-scoring single moments later.

Steve Finley struck out leading off the second, but reached base on a wild pitch. He scored when Harden bobbled Orlando Cabrera's sacrifice bunt back to the mound -- and after Erstad loaded the bases with an infield single off Harden's bare hand, Guerrero cleared them with his 22nd homer of the season over the high wall in left-center.

It was the third grand slam of the AL MVP's career -- and his second in three weeks, following a slam July 21 in New York.

"When you leave something over the plate, he makes you pay," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "It's been a long time since we had something like that [early deficit]. When that happens against a team like that, it's pretty hard."

Harden settled down, retiring 13 of his final 14 hitters, but left before the seventh inning. He allowed nine hits and six earned runs in his third unimpressive start over his last four outings. He had his four-game winning streak snapped.

Lackey has been remarkably consistent this season. He struck out at least six batters for the 12th straight time, and he pitched at least six innings in his 19th straight outing.

Game notes

Finley was back in the Angels' starting lineup, batting eighth. Manager Mike Scioscia believes only playing time will rescue the veteran from his 5-for-31 skid compounded by shoulder problems. ... Scott Hatteberg was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game with a strained muscle in his ribcage. Hatteberg, who hurt himself in batting practice Friday, hit off a tee and took BP from Macha. ... OF Mark Kotsay also sat out again with stiffness in his lower back. Macha hopes Kotsay, who's missed parts of seven games since July 25 because of the injury, can get back to baseball activities soon.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press