Vlad, Angels hold off late rally from struggling A's

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Adam Kennedy lunged to his right behind second base for a spectacular diving stop on Adam Melhuse's sharp grounder, quickly flicking the ball to shortstop Orlando Cabrera to
start a double play with the bases loaded.

His teammates considered that masterful fourth-inning turn a true game-turner.

Vladimir Guerrero homered the next inning and finished with three RBI and Kelvim Escobar pitched seven strong innings to lead the Los Angeles Angels to another one-run win against their rival, 4-3 over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

The Angels did all the right things to send Oakland to its fourth consecutive series loss: Getting solid starting pitching, superb outings by the bullpen, strong defense and timely hitting.

"I'm speechless," Cabrera said of Kennedy's play. "Great play, man, unbelievable. He covered a lot of ground. I didn't think he was going to be able to make it. He got it done. We always come out with good plays in those kind of situations."

Guerrero, the 2004 AL MVP, entered the series finale mired in a 4-for-27 funk but made the most of his at-bats and hit safely for the 14th time in 19 games.

His RBI groundout in the first put the Angels ahead and then he singled in a run in the third. He sent a 2-1 pitch from Kirk Saarloos into the stands in left field in the fifth for his fourth home run of the year.

Jose Molina added an RBI single and Robb Quinlan doubled and scored a run for the Angels, who concluded a 10-game, 11-day road trip with a 5-5 record -- the first of two 10-game trips this season for Los Angeles.

Nick Swisher hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season with a solo shot to right in the sixth, a day after getting his first career grand slam. Milton Bradley homered leading off the seventh for the A's, who refuse to be concerned about yet another
slow April start. They are 8-11 and have lost nine of 12.

The A's have only 32 hits in their last six games.

"There are so many games left, we just have to continue to work hard," Eric Chavez said. "We haven't hit the ball well all year. It's only a matter of time."

Escobar (3-1) retired the first nine A's hitters -- four on fly balls to center -- before allowing three straight singles to start the fourth by Mark Kotsay, Swisher and Chavez.

Bradley drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in a run but Kennedy followed with his big defensive stop.

"That was the game," Escobar said. "That play right there was the key."

Even Melhuse thought it might get through.

"I hit it pretty good," he said. "We needed a big hit and I thought I had it. Kennedy made a great play."

Escobar gave up three runs and five hits, struck out four and walked two. Scot Shields pitched a perfect eighth and Francisco Rodriguez recorded the final three outs for his seventh save in eight chances.

The three games between the division rivals were decided by four runs -- including the A's 5-3 win Friday and a 5-4 Angels' victory Saturday. The teams play 16 more times this season after the Angels took 10 of the 19 meetings last year and clinched the AL West on
Oakland's home field for the second straight season.

"Those guys are going to be there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's going to be neck and neck the whole way."

A's starter Esteban Loaiza (0-3) left after 3 2/3 innings because of a spasm in the left side of his upper back and was replaced by Saarloos, who allowed one run and two hits in 3 1/3 innings. Loaiza's fastball was clocked at 80 to 82 mph and he never looked comfortable in allowing three runs and seven hits.

He felt tightness in his back while stretching about 45 minutes before the game and had a similar problem in spring training.

"In spring it went away," he said. "It's not a good feeling for me. I want to pitch seven innings."

Game notes
Guerrero had his ninth multihit game of 2006. ... Angels third baseman Maicer Izturis left after the second inning with a strained left hamstring and was replaced by Edgardo Alfonzo, who singled in the eighth for his third hit with his new team. Izturis will be placed on the disabled list as soon as Monday. ... A's closer Huston Street was unavailable for the fifth straight day and his status for a three-game series at Texas starting Monday is also in question. The A's have an off-day Thursday before a weekend series at Kansas City, so they might decide to rest the reigning AL rookie of the year until then to be extra cautious. Street played catch for the second day in a row -- making 32 throws -- but did not feel good enough to work off the mound, which had been a possibility if he had been physically able. Trainer Larry Davis is going to be conservative with Street. "I feel confident in the progress I'm making. But if you can't throw off a mound, you can't throw in a game," Street said. ... Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby missed his second consecutive game with a strained right triceps muscle. He will work out before Monday's game at Texas and could be available.