Angels cruise past A's, 9-4, sit alone atop AL West

Angels cruise past A's, 9-4, sit alone atop AL West
Albert Pujols hit an RBI single in the fourth inning to score Kole Calhoun from third base. The Angels scored two more runs in the inning before defeating the Athletics, 9-4. (Jason O. Watson / Getty Images)

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia says he doesn't pay much attention to the standings during August.

"The division lead is important after the last game of the season,"  he said. "The standings are a distraction right now.


"Maybe in about two or three weeks, though, we might want to talk about it a little bit more."

Maybe. But should he bother to take a peek at the leaderboard Monday, he'll see the Angels are back atop the American League West after closing a successful trip Sunday with a 9-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

It's the first time the Angels have led the division in August since 2009. And while that may be a distraction for Scioscia, it's a big deal for center fielder Mike Trout.

"There's a lot of games left. But it's a lot better than we were the past two years," he said. "So we're pretty happy about that."

The Angels got there by winning nine of their last 12 games, including seven of 10 on the trip. None was as important as Sunday's, though, which not only ended at five games a losing streak in Oakland, but also ended a tie with the A's for the best record in the majors.

After being held to four runs in the first two games of the series, the Angels doubled that number before their second out in the fourth inning Sunday with Josh Hamilton hitting a single, a home run, scoring twice and driving in three runs in his first three plate appearances.

"We're bound to break out at some point," right fielder Kole Calhoun, who had three hits Sunday, said jokingly.

Hamilton, Trout, Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar each had two hits, with Aybar running his hitting streak to nine games.

However, no one broke out more than Hamilton, who had two hits in the first five games of the trip but was six for 16 with two home runs and eight runs batted in in the last five games.

"Just barreling balls up, that's the biggest thing," said Hamilton, who raised his average to .269. "Instead of worrying about, 'OK, I'm not going to get the numbers I want to have this year from this point out,' I can have good at-bats and try to contribute every night.

"That's the point where we're out in the season. So that's the approach I'm taking."

With a home run, a single and two runs, Trout also stopped a skid in which he had more strikeouts (10) than hits (six) in his last six games.

The Angels did most of their damage against former teammate Scott Kazmir, who was bidding to become the league's second 15-game winner.

But this time the left-hander looked a lot more like the guy the Angels released in 2011, matching season highs by giving up seven runs and 10 hits and getting only nine outs.

On the other side, the Angels' Jered Weaver was reestablishing himself as the staff' ace after Garrett Richards' season-ending knee surgery. Weaver (14-7) shut down the A's through six innings before giving up two home runs and three runs in the seventh inning. But the outcome was hardly in doubt at that point, with the Angels on the way to winning for the 11th time in Weaver's last 13 starts.

"That's one of our leaders," Calhoun said of Weaver. "He competes for us every single time. And he takes that presence to the mound and it's somebody that's going to be important for us down the stretch."

And when the Angels get to the end of that stretch, Scioscia promised he will check the standings then.

In the meantime, Calhoun said the Angels will just try to keep doing what they did Sunday.

"We've just got to keep playing baseball," he said. "If we keep doing what we've been doing for the last month or so, I think we'll look up at the end of the season and we'll be all right."