OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Three souvenir bottles of bubbly
belonging to Frank Thomas from Chicago's World Series championship
last year remained corked on the floor beside a box of his bats.
The Oakland Athletics must wait at least another day to
celebrate an AL West title.
Juan Rivera hit a go-ahead, three-run double in the sixth, John
Lackey pitched seven strong innings and the Los Angeles Angels
prevented Oakland from clinching the division on Saturday with a
6-2 victory over the A's.
"No party today," Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
Oakland's magic number to clinch its first AL West title since
2003 remained at two, so the A's could still do it at home with a
win in Sunday's series finale. They lead Los Angeles by seven games
with eight to go, including the final four of the season against
the Angels in Anaheim.
"We've just got to figure out a way to win tomorrow," Thomas
said. "It's not going to be easy. They're here to win."
The A's, who won Friday's opener 5-4 in the 12th inning, had
their four-game winning streak snapped with only their second loss
in 10 games. They still hope to celebrate on their home field after
watching the Angels do so at the Coliseum the past two seasons.
"I think there's a pretty healthy respect for what the Angels
have the ability to do and what they've done in the past," A's
general manager Billy Beane said before the game. "Nothing's over
'til it's over. ... I don't think it's being viewed as payback."
"You don't need to get hit with a brick in the head to know
that it's a must-win," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "These
guys won't melt."
Lackey (12-11) pitched a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory in
Oakland on July 7 and looked great again. He struck out five and
ended a two-start losing skid, allowing two runs and four hits.
"He was dirty," said Jay Payton, whose leadoff double in the
fourth was the first hit allowed by Lackey. "He came out on a
Nick Swisher singled home Payton moments later to tie the score
Lackey improved to 8-2 with a 3.12 earned-run average in 17 career starts
against the A's, matching his career high with 124 pitches.
"He was almost unbeatable," Oakland's Eric Chavez said. "I
put him up there in the top five pitchers in baseball."
"It was kind of a pride thing," Lackey said. "It was kind of
motivational. I didn't want to watch it [a celebration] on my day.
We still mathematically have a chance. We're going to go down
Joe Blanton (16-12) intentionally walked cleanup hitter Garret Anderson in the sixth to load the bases for Rivera, who hit a shot
to left. Payton terribly mistimed his jump and the ball hit the
wall, though he likely would have had a tough time making the play
anyway. Adam Kennedy followed with an RBI double for a 5-2 lead.
Blanton, who was looking for his team-leading and career-best
17th victory, remained winless at 0-6 in seven career starts and
nine appearances against the Angels with a 3.81 ERA.
"I feel like every time I face them I catch bad breaks that end
up costing me," Blanton said.
He allowed consecutive singles in the third before Figgins'
sacrifice fly made it 1-0. Rivera's double was his 26th and one of
three against Blanton in the Angels' four-run sixth.
Rivera is batting .343 (35-for-102) with runners in scoring
position. His eighth-inning single chased Blanton, who allowed
Vladimir Guerrero's leadoff double that also got past Payton in
Blanton is 8-3 in 11 day games. He has a 6.98 ERA in
September. ... Longtime A's public address announcer Roy Steele,
who has dealt with a serious throat condition for more than a year,
returned to the booth for the first time all season to call the
game. ... Scioscia tweaked his lineup slightly with Kennedy back in
at 2B and Jose Molina catching. ... The A's sold out for the second
straight game and 12th time this year.