J.T. Snow punctuated the end of a 0-for-16 streak by diving headfirst into first base to beat out an infield hit in the first inning Friday. In the seventh, he drove in the Angels' third run with a long sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field.
Damion Easley singled and doubled, scored one run and knocked in another. Tim Salmon singled. So did Gary DiSarcina and Rene Gonzales. And Greg Myers doubled.
Hitting slump? What hitting slump?
To be sure, the Angels' return to Anaheim Stadium after hitting .198 on their seven-game trip lacked the punch of their last home stand. But they put together enough timely hits for a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics before 25,735.
Chuck Finley (3-2) had his streak of three consecutive complete games ended, but his strong 7 2/3 innings, highlighted by eight strikeouts, kept the Athletics' bats quiet.
Julio Valera injected a bit of drama by striking out Mark McGwire with two out and two runners on in the eighth inning and giving up a solo home run to Dave Henderson and a run-scoring groundout to pinch-hitter Troy Neel in the ninth. But he managed to pick up his fourth save.
"J.T. hit a couple of balls on the nose," Manager Buck Rodgers said after the Angels' third consecutive victory kept them half a game ahead of second-place Chicago. "Myers hit the ball on the nose and finally got a base hit out of it. I'm much happier with the way we hit the ball."
As it turned out, Easley's eighth-inning double drove home Myers for the game-winning run. And Myers, aboard on a one-out double, might never have gotten on base if Rickey Henderson, on the bench nursing a bruised shoulder, was in the game. Myers drove a hard line drive off the glove of left fielder Dale Sveum, playing the position for the first time in a major league game, and was given a double.
It was a key break, and the Angels needed all the help they could get.
"Julio got the big out in the eighth, then got himself in trouble in the ninth," Rodgers said. "He got (McGwire) and it was almost like, 'Whew.' Then he had to get it back up in the ninth."
These are strange days for the A's, who find themselves on the bottom of the American League West standings.
Loser Kelly Downs (1-2) started for the first time this season because Storm Davis had to miss his turn because of a stiff right shoulder. Downs pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, four hits and walking five before he was replaced by . . . Storm Davis.
The Angels didn't hit Downs hard, even though Downs went into the game with a 11.45 earned-run average and 1-1 record. Downs is only one reason the A's are third from last in the league in ERA.
But facing the slumping Angels, the A's starter fared well enough to leave trailing only 2-1.
The margin probably should have been wider, but the Angels could not land a knockout punch against Downs. The Angels had at least one runner reach base in each of the first four innings, but seemed to stumble when it came time for a clutch hit.
"We're getting the one run," Rodgers said. "We're getting the sacrifice fly, but we're not getting the big hit. We've tapered off hitting-wise, but we're going to get it back."
A couple of baserunning mistakes didn't help matters much, either. Trailing, 1-0, after Kevin Seitzer's run-scoring single in the second inning, the Angels sent six runners to the plate in the bottom of the inning. But all they could come up with was DiSarcina's sacrifice fly to center that scored Myers.
The Angels could have had the bases loaded with none out in the inning. But Salmon overran third, then got tangled up with third base coach Ken Macha and was tagged out by shortstop Mike Bordick after Gonzales' infield single.
In the third, Chad Curtis walked to lead off the inning, then stole second but was left stranded.
In the fourth, DiSarcina's run-scoring single to left field scored Easley, who had walked, to give the Angels a 2-1 lead. However, another potentially bountiful inning ended when DiSarcina got a bad jump trying to steal second and was thrown out by Terry Steinbach.
The A's went quietly until the ninth.