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Izturis saves the day for Angels

Times Staff Writer

The Angels salvaged another series finale Wednesday afternoon, the third consecutive time they have won the third game in a series after dropping the first two.

If this keeps up much longer, the Angels’ chances in the American League West could soon be beyond recovery.

Even with a 7-6 victory over Oakland at Angel Stadium that came courtesy of Maicer Izturis’ run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Angels have lost three consecutive series and dropped seven of their last 10 games. They are 5-7 since the All-Star break and 8-11 in July.

Not exactly a formula for how the West should be won.

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The Angels nearly coughed up the game in epic fashion, with closer Francisco Rodriguez giving up three runs in the ninth inning on three hits and two walks.

The Athletics dinged Rodriguez for a bloop double that fell between three players, a broken-bat single, a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly to forge a 6-6 tie.

“That’s just some weird stuff happening in that inning,” said Angels starter John Lackey, who had pitched six strong innings and was on track to record his 13th victory before things unraveled.

The Angels recovered in the bottom of the inning after Casey Kotchman singled past diving third baseman Marco Scutaro with one out. Kotchman advanced to second on Gary Matthews Jr.'s groundout and took third on a passed ball before Izturis singled past Scutaro to prompt a celebratory scrum of Angels in the infield.

“I was very happy,” Izturis, who is hitting .368 with runners in scoring position and two out, said through an interpreter. “A big game to win after that happened.”

Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins and Kotchman had three hits apiece to pace a 15-hit attack that was reminiscent of the way the Angels played in June, when they hit .319 and averaged 6.1 runs a game. It was all the more impressive considering that Manager Mike Scioscia had given right fielder Vladimir Guerrero the day off.

“To get him off his feet to rest and be able to get a ‘W,’ it is big without the big man in there,” Kotchman said.

Despite their struggles, the Angels have actually gained ground on Seattle in the division over the last few weeks. An advantage that was 2 1/2 games at the All-Star break is now 3 1/2 games, and for that the Angels can thank the similarly slumping Mariners, who also have lost eight of 11 games.

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Nevertheless, the Angels (58-42) reached the 100-game mark of the season largely stuck in neutral on offense, hitting only .253 in July.

And with only six days remaining before the trade deadline, help may not necessarily be on the way.

“I think you have to go through it assuming nothing is going to happen,” Scioscia said of the July 31 deadline. “I think our team is good enough to reach our goal if nothing happens.”

Lackey helped the Angels take a step in the right direction by giving up seven hits and three runs, including designated hitter Mike Piazza’s second homer in three games since returning from the disabled list.

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Justin Speier and Scot Shields each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, handing a 6-3 lead to Rodriguez in the ninth.

Travis Buck led off with a bloop double that fell between center fielder Matthews, shortstop Orlando Cabrera and second baseman Izturis after Matthews initially broke backward on the ball.

Buck moved to third when Shannon Stewart flared a single to right and scored on Nick Swisher’s groundout to make it 6-4. Piazza then hit a broken-bat single to right-center, putting runners on first and third with one out.

“Broken-bat singles, I can’t control that,” Rodriguez said.

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But Rodriguez (4-2) compounded matters by walking Mark Ellis to load the bases and Mark Kotsay to force home another run that drew the Athletics to within 6-5. Scutaro’s sacrifice fly to right tied the score before Donnie Murphy flied out and the Angels rallied in the bottom of the inning.

“That’s not going to happen too often,” Lackey said of Rodriguez’s struggles. “I can’t wait to hand him the ball the next time I’ve got the lead in the ninth. He’s going to get the job done.”

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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