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Angels Remain Focused on Field

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They could have cracked when faced with adversity and blamed their history for setting a lasting precedent. But the Angels, confronted anew by challenges to their competitiveness and their resolve, again responded impressively.

Right-hander Ramon Ortiz held the Oakland A’s hitless for 5 1/3 innings and closer Troy Percival earned his 36th save in 40 opportunities as the Angels crafted a 5-2 victory before a lively crowd of 35,323 Tuesday at Edison Field. It might someday be seen as a turning point in their season, because earlier in the day, the Angels learned that pitcher Jarrod Washburn is under investigation for alleged sexual assault.

That could have shaken them. Instead, they bounced back from their series-opening loss, fueled by a three-RBI performance from Scott Spiezio and run-scoring doubles by Shawn Wooten in the third inning and Garret Anderson in the eighth. The Angels moved back within two games of the division-leading A’s and with 18 games left padded their lead in the wild-card race to five games over the Seattle Mariners, who lost to Texas.

“This team has had a lot of things to overcome,” Spiezio said after the Angels won for the 11th time in 12 games and Oakland lost for only the third time in 25 games. “This is just another one.”

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Angel Manager Mike Scioscia concurred.

“We’re going to play baseball,” he said. “That’s what we have to do when we get on the field. Our guys have put these [distractions] on the back burner all year and have come out with tunnel vision.”

That tunnel appears to lead to the playoffs.

“We’ve got to keep it going,” said Ortiz (13-9), who matched his win total of last season and recorded his first career victory over the A’s after four losses. “I feel very good. The team wins. Everybody is happy.”

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Percival, the last of five Angel pitchers, entered the game with two out in the eighth, only the third time this season he has been summoned before the ninth inning. He got a little stiff while the Angels scored their final two runs in the eighth, but he retired the side in order in the ninth.

“We wouldn’t be talking about these things if not for our bullpen,” Scioscia said. “All the guys, they really got a lot of work lately. They’ve been incredible.”

Oakland’s Ted Lilly (4-7) made his first start since July 20 against Texas. He had been on the disabled list because of an inflammation in his left shoulder.

Lilly had difficulty finding his rhythm in the first inning, and the Angels capitalized.

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Spiezio’s two-run homer, his 10th of the season and first since Sept. 1, was the key hit. David Eckstein led off the game by grounding a single in the hole between short and third, and he went to second when Lilly balked. Darin Erstad struck out, but Spiezio teed off on a waist-high off-speed pitch and launched it into the Angel bullpen in left field, ending an eight-for-46 slump.

Spiezio started the game at third for only the seventh time this season. The move was necessary because Troy Glaus sprained the middle and ring fingers of his left hand Monday while sliding headfirst into second on a successful but painful steal.

The Angels extended their lead to 3-0 in the third and ended Lilly’s outing.

Ortiz cruised through the first four innings, allowing only back-to-back walks to David Justice and Mark Ellis in the second inning. Hitters were contorted into corkscrews missing his fastball, and his breaking ball kept them off balance.

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Ortiz lost his no-hitter with one out in the sixth, when Ray Durham poked a single through the right side of the infield. He lost the shutout when Terrence Long pounded his first pitch for a home run.

The Angels gave themselves some breathing room in the eighth by scoring twice against Ricardo Rincon on an infield single by Adam Kennedy and two-out doubles by Spiezio and Anderson.

For Spiezio, having played for Oakland for three seasons wasn’t his sole motivation Tuesday. “We’re chasing them for the division title, so it’s a huge game,” he said. “From here on out, we’ve got nothing but big games.”


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