Angels get an early bad sign

Times Staff Writer

It's probably not a good omen when you get three hits in the first inning and don't get a runner past second base.

That's the kind of night it was Monday for the Angels, who had one runner picked off and another thrown out on an ill-advised dash to third base in that first inning and went on to lose to the Oakland Athletics, 2-1, in Angel Stadium.

The Angels began the game with the American League's best record, and the A's were a major league-worst 8-27 since the All-Star break, their club ranking last in baseball in batting, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs in that span.

But although 19 1/2 games separate these teams in the AL West standings, little separated them Monday night. The A's won despite managing only four hits against starter Jered Weaver, who gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings, and two relievers.

The Angels did not advance a runner to scoring position all game. Starter Dallas Braden gave up one run and seven hits in seven innings, with no walks or strikeouts, and relievers Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler blanked the Angels in the eighth and ninth.

"That's baseball sometimes," said catcher Mike Napoli, who hit Braden's first pitch of the sixth inning for a home run. "We hit some balls hard at people and didn't get anyone in. It wasn't our night, I guess."

The Angels played without their two run-producing leaders, cleanup batter Vladimir Guerrero, who Manager Mike Scioscia said needs a few days to "recharge" his sore legs, and Garret Anderson, whose sore left knee limited him to an eighth-inning pinch-hit appearance.

Lacking some punch, the Angels tried to manufacture runs with aggressive baserunning, which has been an Angels hallmark under Scioscia, a key to their maximizing offense in years in which they lacked power.

But the A's snuffed out that running game Monday night. Chone Figgins led off the first inning with a single but was picked off on a snap throw to first by the left-handed Braden.

Erick Aybar then singled, but on Torii Hunter's two-out single to left field, Aybar hesitated around second before continuing to third. Aybar was thrown out by left fielder Jack Cust, more a mistake of youth than aggression for the speedy rookie.

"He didn't think there was a chance when he got to second," Scioscia said. "When he got around the bag, he turned it on but was a step too late.

"That's Baserunning 101. You run hard to a base and run through a base, and then you read the play. He read it a little early, he didn't think he was going to go, then he thought there was an opportunity and picked it up. It was a little too late."

Figgins also singled with one out in the third but was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Kurt Suzuki. After Napoli's sixth-inning homer, the Angels made 11 consecutive outs.

Weaver made only three mistakes, a full-count fastball that No. 9 hitter Daric Barton lined for a home run to right field in the third inning, a hanging curve that Jack Hannahan banged for a double to right-center field in the fourth and a wild pitch that allowed Frank Thomas, who took third on Hannahan's double, to score.

"I should have blocked it," Napoli said. "I didn't get my body in front of it."

One pitch after Weaver's changeup bounced past Napoli, allowing Thomas to score for a 2-0 lead, Weaver struck out Emil Brown to end the inning.

Had he not thrown the wild pitch, Weaver would have stranded runners on second and third and emerged from the fourth inning with a one-run deficit instead of two. And Napoli's homer would have tied the score.

"That's one of those things I have to chew on," Weaver said. "It's a little frustrating."


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