Series: Game 1 of 3

Oakland leads 1-0 (as of 4/21)

Game 1: Friday, April 21
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Game 2: Saturday, April 22
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Game 3: Sunday, April 23
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Angels 3

(8-9, 4-7 away)

Athletics 5

(8-9, 5-5 home)

    10:05 PM ET, April 21, 2006 Coliseum, Oakland, California 

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    LAA 000201000 3 6 0
    OAK 00110021 - 5 4 0

    W: R. Harden (3-0)

    L: J. Romero (1-2)

    S: K. Calero (1)

    Chavez's blast helps Harden win third straight 

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- During the winter, Eric Chavez visualized how he would approach each at-bat this season with patience rather than being overly aggressive and falling into another slow start at the plate.

    The plan has led to quite a first month for the Oakland star.

    Chavez hit a go-ahead two-run homer to help Rich Harden win his third straight start, and the Athletics beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-3 on Friday night in an important victory for the club's morale.

    "I have the right approach now," said Chavez, batting .298 with a team-leading seven home runs and 16 RBI. "I had the wrong approach. Now, I'm less aggressive and I'm letting things happen. I like to swing the bat and attack the ball. I'm seeing the pitch and slowing it down a little bit. As funny as it sounds, I'm really not worried about my numbers."

    Chavez's drive in the seventh inning against J.C. Romero (1-2) was the 197th of his career and 191st as a third baseman -- tying him with Sal Bando for the Athletics' franchise record for homers from that position.

    Harden (3-0) retired the first nine batters he faced with only two balls leaving the infield but was challenged through the middle innings against the Angels' loaded lineup that had scored 35 runs in its previous five games. He allowed five hits and three runs in eight innings, retiring Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson in order on 10 pitches in the eighth.

    "I think that was big," Harden said. "I'd been struggling getting through the last inning. Usually I get tired and get wild."

    Jason Kendall hit an RBI double in the eighth and Mark Ellis doubled to left with two outs in the fourth to tie it at 2 for the A's, who took advantage of Los Angeles starter John Lackey's location problems.

    Anderson gave the Angels a lead with a solo homer in the sixth and also drove in the tying run in the fourth, but Harden settled down to extend his winning streak to four games dating to Aug. 19 before he missed more than a month with an injured muscle below his throwing shoulder.

    The right-hander is 21-7 since the 2004 All-Star break. He allowed back-to-back singles to Chone Figgins and Cabrera to start the fourth, then Anderson hit a tying single two batters later. Darin Erstad, a last-minute addition, followed with a sacrifice fly for the two-time defending AL West champion Angels.

    Joe Kennedy started the ninth and allowed a leadoff triple to Erstad. Kiko Calero relieved and got the final three outs for his first save of the season.

    Lackey didn't allow a hit until Bobby Crosby's two-out RBI double in the third, though he gave up consecutive walks to Milton Bradley and Nick Swisher in the second and another to Mark Kotsay in the third.

    Lackey issued back-to-back walks -- the second of which was his career-high seventh -- again to start the sixth and manager Mike Scioscia then turned to Romero, who got three straight outs to escape the jam.

    "John didn't miss by much but he still walked seven and we walked 10," Scioscia said. "We played right into their hand. That's been a trend the last four or five games."

    This was an important win for Oakland, traditionally a slow starter in April, after losing its last two to the Tigers and seven of nine overall. The A's began a stretch with eight of 11 games against the division.

    Angels catcher Jeff Mathis had a tough day on defense. He was charged with an error when Chavez hit a popup in foul territory near third and the ball landed between Mathis and third baseman Maicer Izturis. Then he dropped Frank Thomas' high popup near the visitor's dugout one batter later.

    And he was part of the game's strange ending, too.

    After striking out, Mathis was called for interfering with catcher Jason Kendall's throw to second base for an unusual double play.

    "That was the right call," Scioscia said. "Kendall got off a good throw but you can't interfere cutting across the plate with his vision of throwing either. Jeff stepped across the plate."

    Crosby left after the fourth with a strained right triceps muscle and Marco Scutaro replaced him at shortstop. Crosby will be examined Saturday to determine the severity of the injury. He felt something beneath his armpit during batting practice and tried to play through it.

    "I'm hoping it's something that flared up and tweaked and in the next day or so I'll be back in there," he said.

    Dan Johnson went 0-for-2 with two walks, extending his slump to 1-for-37 (.027) to start the season. During his fourth-inning plate appearance, one fan yelled "Go back to Sacramento!" -- a reference to the club's Triple-A team.

    "I can't catch a break," he said. "It'll come. The stars have got to align sometime."

    Game notes

    Swisher walked in all four of his trips to the plate. The Angels' 10 walks were their most since walking 11 Yankees on May 19, 2004. ... DH Tim Salmon was a healthy scratch for the Angles after Anderson had to move into the DH spot from LF because of a sore heel.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press