OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- For nearly four years, the Angels'
bullpen has been the majors' closest thing to a sure thing.
When it falters, its opponents are almost as surprised as the
Los Angeles relievers -- but the Oakland Athletics have a knack for
doing the improbable this season.
Nick Swisher drove in the tying run before scoring on Mark
Ellis' infield single in the seventh inning, and the A's moved back
into a first-place tie with the Angels in the AL West, winning 4-3
Adam Melhuse homered and later scored on a wild pitch in a
three-run seventh against Scot Shields, one of the majors' best
relievers. The A's rallied for their 19th win in 22 games since
July 19, when they trailed the Angels by 8½ games.
Los Angeles won the series opener Tuesday night, but the clubs
attracted another huge crowd at the normally somnolent Coliseum,
with 45,131 fans packing the place -- and this time, they had
something to cheer.
Oakland trailed 7-0 in the second inning of the series opener.
With a clutch rally and some solid relief pitching in the rematch,
the A's provided more of the excitement and clutch play that has
propelled them into the playoff race.
"This team has been coming from behind all year," Swisher
said. "We just got some guys on base, which is all you can do.
They've got a heck of a bullpen. To be able to get that off them is
Angels rookie Ervin Santana outpitched Barry Zito with six
innings of four-hit ball, leaving with a 2-1 lead -- but in the
seventh, Jay Payton tripled and scored on Swisher's single off
Shields (7-7). The right-hander had allowed just three earned runs
in his previous 26 innings.
After Melhuse singled, shortstop Orlando Cabrera couldn't make a
difficult play on Ellis' two-out grounder up the middle while
Swisher scored the go-ahead run. Shields then hit the backstop on
the fly with a pitch to Bobby Crosby, and Melhuse scored without a
"When their hitters get hot, it's hard to stop them," said
Shields, whose 10th-inning throwing error cost Los Angeles another
game in Oakland on April 16. "I hope it's 1-0, 2-1 in the eighth
inning again [Thursday]. I want some revenge on them. It hurts when
I can't hold the lead for Santana."
Huston Street gave up Steve Finley's leadoff homer in the ninth
-- the first run allowed by the rookie closer since the All-Star
break -- but finished for his 14th save in 18 chances. Finley's
homer, which snapped an 0-for-14 skid, was the veteran's first
since June 10.
Bengie Molina hit a two-run double in the third inning for the
Angels, whose normally solid bullpen finally faltered. Los Angeles'
opponents entered the game with a .219 average against the
relievers -- the lowest mark in the majors.
But Shields, who leads AL relievers with 68 1/3 innings, allowed
four hits and three runs. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't
worried about his bullpen's busiest member.
"His stuff was fine, [but] we didn't make a couple of plays
behind him, and they had some hits fall in," Scioscia said. "The
wild pitch certainly didn't help us, but it's just one tough
inning. Shields will be fine."
Jeff DaVanon was ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman after
the left fielder struck out looking to end the eighth inning.
Swisher's single preserved Zito's eight-game winning streak,
though Oakland's ace left-hander didn't get the decision for the
first time since June 22. Zito allowed just two hits in six
innings, but walked five and hit Vladimir Guerrero with a pitch
moments before Molina's double.
After Rich Harden was tagged for seven early runs in the series
opener, the A's were hoping for a strong outing from Zito to get
back in the series. But the A's ace never got on his game, needing
115 pitches -- 25 in the first inning alone -- to get through six
But Zito wasn't surprised when the A's rallied.
"We're a totally different team than we were in April," Zito
said. "We're totally resilient. The team confidence is the reason
that we do come back in a game like this."
Molina's double capped a two-out rally in the third. After Darin
Erstad walked and Guerrero was hit, Molina hit a drive into the
left field corner.
Melhuse, the seldom-used backup catcher getting a rare start as
the designated hitter, homered leading off the third.
OF Garret Anderson sat out for the Angels. ... Guerrero was
the 48th batter hit by a pitch from Zito, breaking Tim Hudson's
career record in Oakland. ... Scott Hatteberg and Mark Kotsay both
were held out of Oakland's lineup for another day. Hatteberg, who
has a strained muscle in his ribcage, will be re-evaluated Friday.
Kotsay, who has back problems, could be the A's designated hitter