Angels fall, 3-1, as Athletics rally against Scott Downs

OAKLAND -- Angels Manager Mike Scioscia could not remember the last time Scott Downs gave up a home run. Neither could Downs, the veteran left-hander who has been one of the team’s most reliable relievers this season.

It had been that long.


Downs had also made 29 consecutive appearances without giving up a run, one shy of Francisco Rodriguez’s franchise record of 30 set in 2006, but that streak came to a quick and painful end Saturday when Downs’ first pitch of the seventh inning was hit for a pinch-hit, two-run home run by Derek Norris.

Norris’ first career pinch-hit highlighted a three-run inning that led the Oakland Athletics to a 3-1 come-from-behind victory in the Oakland Coliseum and dropped the Angels 12 games behind the American League West-leading A’s, matching their largest deficit of the season.

BOX SCORE: Athletics 3, Angels 1

“It doesn’t happen very often, but when you’re not a velocity guy and you leave the ball up and over the middle to good hitters, that’s what happens,” said Downs, who hadn’t given up a home run since Seattle’s Justin Smoak took him deep Sept. 25. “I’m about location, changing speeds.”

Garrett Richards, who replaced struggling right-hander Joe Blanton in the rotation, gave up three hits in five innings, striking out four and walking two, in his first start since April 30, and he left with a 1-0 lead on the strength of Josh Hamilton’s home run against left-hander Tommy Milone in the second inning.

Dane De La Rosa, the workhorse who leads the team with 47 appearances and 482/3 relief innings, threw a scoreless sixth inning before walking Josh Reddick to open the seventh and fielding Chris Young’s bunt and throwing out Reddick at second base.

With De La Rosa’s pitch count at 25 and left-handed-hitting Stephen Vogt, who hit a two-run home run Friday night, coming up, Scioscia summoned Downs knowing that Oakland Manager Bob Melvin would counter with the right-handed-hitting Norris.

“Dane was running out of gas,” Scioscia said. “You definitely like the matchup with Downs’ sinker, and hopefully you get a double-play ball. Give Norris credit. He got a pitch up a little bit and didn’t miss it.”

Downs, who could be traded before Wednesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, entered with a 2-2 record and 1.24 earned-run average in 43 games, and he hadn’t given up a run since May 1, his scoreless streak spanning 18 innings. His third blown save was the Angels’ second blown save in five games.

After Norris lined his home run to left field, Downs struck out Eric Sogard. But Coco Crisp hit a two-out single to center field and scored when Jed Lowrie doubled over the head of right fielder Collin Cowgill for a 3-1 lead.

“I knew Norris was going to be aggressive off the bench,” Downs said. “I was trying to throw something down and away, it stayed up and over the middle, and he did what a good hitter can do. All streaks come to an end.”

The one bright spot Saturday was Richards, the 25-year-old right-hander who has bounced between the rotation and bullpen for two years but could solidify a starting spot with more efforts like Saturday’s 78-pitch outing, which was backed by some solid defense.

“As the game went on, I think Garrett’s command started to appear,” Scioscia said. “He had real good life on his fastball, a good breaking ball, and he definitely gave us a chance to win. He started off a little fuzzy trying to find his release point, but once he did, he pitched a strong game.”