Escobar wins career-best 18th game as Angels sink A's

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Scioscia might have found a possible scenario that would allow Bartolo Colon to pitch for the Angels in the playoffs: as a reliever.

Yes, the manager is considering it -- if Colon even makes the postseason roster at all. Dustin Moseley and Chris Bootcheck also are vying for the final pitching spot.

Kelvim Escobar showed he is ready to go, earning his career-best 18th victory to lead Los Angeles past Oakland 3-2 on Saturday. It was the defending division champion Athletics' fifth straight defeat and 10th in 11 games.

The Angels already locked up the AL West and know they are headed to Boston to open the first round of the playoffs, giving Scioscia the opportunity to explore some situations such as Colon out of the bullpen.

Scioscia plans to use John Lackey, Escobar and Jered Weaver as his starters against the Red Sox in the division series. But he hasn't completely decided against starting Colon, either. The burly right-hander came off the disabled list Sept. 9 after being sidelined since July 24 with irritation in his right elbow.

"When you have a talent like Bartolo, you want him on your staff in some capacity," Scioscia said. "We've looked at a couple scenarios, but we're not going to rule out Bart starting, but we're looking at the scenario of him helping us out of the pen."

Juan Rivera and Erick Aybar each hit RBI singles and Jeff Mathis added a sacrifice fly for the Angels, who saw Colon make his first relief appearance in 10 years.

Colon came out of the bullpen for only the third time in his career and first since Sept. 27, 1997, against Minnesota in the first game of a doubleheader with the Twins. He pitched twice in relief that year.

"I don't know," Colon said when asked how he felt afterward.

He pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts, Scot Shields allowed Dan Johnson's RBI single in the eighth, then Francisco Rodriguez finished for his 40th save and second in as many games.

Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero sat out to rest sore triceps muscles on both arms, the left one hurting after getting hit by a pitch Friday. He also will probably sit out Sunday. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, Garret Anderson, Maicer Izturis and Gary Matthews Jr. also were held out to rest nagging issues.

"Some guys who are nicked up we want to heal up," Scioscia said before the game.

Escobar (18-7) won his third straight decision and seventh in eight after having his last turn skipped. He wasn't even fazed when Nick Swisher's groundout glanced off his head in the first inning.

The struggling right-hander twice was pushed back to give him a mental break and a chance to rest his inflamed shoulder, so he hadn't pitched since Sept. 17 against Tampa Bay.

"The most important thing was my shoulder," Escobar said. "I struggled a few games. It happens. I had to make a few adjustments. ... It did (help having time off). I'm ready for the postseason."

It was another strong performance by a Los Angeles starter after Lackey helped shut out Oakland on Friday night.

Escobar walked Kurt Suzuki and J.J. Furmaniak to start the fifth and received a visit from pitching coach Mike Butcher, then got out of the inning unscathed. Escobar allowed five hits and one run in six innings, struck out four and walked two.

Lenny DiNardo (8-10) pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief and picked up the loss, giving up two runs in the fourth inning as Los Angeles went ahead 3-1. DiNardo allowed five hits, struck out four and didn't walk a batter after replacing the ailing Dallas Braden.

Rivera's RBI single in the first put the Angels ahead, then Oakland tied it on Swisher's two-out RBI single in the third.

Braden complained of a hurt groin and offered to pitch through it. He went only three innings and allowed a run and three hits, struck out three and walked one. It was the 14th major league start for the left-hander, who is 0-8 in 19 appearances and 13 starts since winning his first big league start April 24 at Baltimore.

"Dallas said it was his groin a little bit and to his credit, Dallas wanted to pitch through it," manager Bob Geren said. "We appreciate that mentality. Any player who wants to continue to play should be admired for that."

Game notes
Oakland's 8-17 mark in September is the club's worst record for the month since going 8-20 in 1985. ... Escobar reached 1,500 career innings pitched. ... Escobar has allowed three or fewer runs in 23 of his 30 starts this season. His win Saturday was his first in four 2007 starts against the A's. ... Daric Barton has reached safely in all 17 of his games for Oakland, with nine multihit performances.