Angels beat A's, extend AL West lead

OAKLAND, Calif. Garland allowed two runs in seven-plus innings, Maicer Izturis hit a leadoff homer for the second straight game, and the Los Angeles Angels extended their AL West lead with a 5-3 win over Oakland on Saturday night. The Angels have won a season-high seven straight. Of those seven wins, four have been by one run. The other three were by two-run margins. With the win, Los Angeles moved 5½ games ahead of second place Oakland. Garland (6-3) gave up five hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and one walk to remain unbeaten in his last seven starts. The eight strikeouts were two shy of Garland's career-high and the most he's had since fanning eight against Detroit on Aug. 30, 2003. "I slowed down a little bit," Garland said. "Against Toronto I was just real jumpy, just trying to get out there and attack the zone. Today I attacked the zone but a lot calmer, staying back and riding my legs." Francisco Rodriguez picked up his major league-leading 26th save in 27 opportunities despite a shaky ninth inning. The Angels' closer gave up a leadoff homer to Jack Cust, a double to Eric Chavez and walked Travis Buck with two outs before striking out Carlos Gonzalez to end the game. Rodriguez has saved each of the Angels' last five wins. It was his 23rd straight save, a club record. "We had a nice comeback, we just ran out of innings," A's manager Bob Geren said. "Their guy was tough. He threw in the low 90s and when he needed it, he'd reach back and throw 94." The switch-hitting Izturis hit the first pitch he saw from Oakland left-hander Greg Smith over the wall in left field to give the Angels an early lead. On Friday night while batting from the left side of the plate, Izturis homered on the third pitch from Athletics ace Joe Blanton. "I made up my mind when I was watching (Smith) warm up that if he gave me a fastball on the first pitch I was going to jump on it," Izturis said. "He did and I just made good contact." Izturis, in the lineup while starting shortstop Erick Aybar recovers from a dislocated pinky, became the first switch-hitter to hit a leadoff homer from both sides of the plate in consecutive games since Jimmy Rollins on Sept. 25-26, 2005. He's the first Angels player to do it since Rex Hudler on May 20-21, 1996. "I just wanted to get ahead and it found too much of the plate," Smith said. "He hit one like that yesterday. It was a bad pitch and he hit it like he should have." Garland ran into trouble in the third and seventh but got double plays to end both threats. He carried a shutout into the eighth before Travis Buck hit a two-run home run. Garland, who won 18 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2005 and in 2006 before being traded to the Angels for infielder Orlando Cabrera and cash in November, hasn't lost since giving up seven earned runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings against the A's on April 28. "It's a big difference when you throw strike one and get ahead of guys, isn't it?" Garland said. "What helped was throwing strikes with my off-speed stuff, so when I threw the fastball I think it jumped on them a little more than they were expecting." Smith (3-5) took the loss for the A's, his fourth in five starts. He gave up five runs, four earned, and allowed seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. Gonzalez, Oakland's rookie outfielder who was called up on May 30, hit two doubles. He became the first major leaguer since Johnny Mize in 1936 to begin his major league career with each of his first seven hits going for extra bases. Notes: Angels RHP Scott Shields (sore ribs) threw off the mound Saturday and may be available to pitch Sunday. ... Aybar (pinky) is scheduled to see hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin on Monday and could begin taking batting practice next week. ... Oakland RHP Andrew Brown, on the DL since undergoing an appendectomy on May 20, may be activated Sunday, according to manager Bob Geren. ... RHP Santiago Casilla (elbow) is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Sunday for the A's.
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