AL West champ Angels sweep A's to close out regular season

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Joe Saunders got a shot for his ailing left shoulder in August and has felt great ever since.

Saunders pitched five effective innings, Mike Napoli homered and the Los Angeles Angels closed out an impressive regular season with a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

The AL West champions swept the three-game set against the A's and will host the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of their division series Wednesday or Thursday. Saunders (16-7) allowed two runs and six hits as the Angels marked their 100th day in first place.

Saunders improved to 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts since he was activated in August following a stint on the disabled list for left shoulder irritation, a problem he began to experience during spring training.

"I took the shot and it cleared the knot out," he said. "Since then I've told myself to come back strong and show them I can do what I can do.

"When I came back I felt good. The tightness was out of there and the soreness was out of there. Now it's time to get ready for the postseason."

Erick Aybar had three hits for Los Angeles (97-65) in the regular-season finale. Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales each drove in a run.

"He's one of the young guys who has turned into a difference maker," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Aybar. "Not only at the plate but more so in the field. He's hands down the Gold Glove shortstop. There's not many who can combine his range with his ability to turn the double play. He's played incredible defense."

Eric Patterson had two hits and an RBI for last-place Oakland (75-87), which lost its last seven games of the year. Jeff Gray (0-1) gave up three runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings.

"It wasn't the way we wanted to finish," manager Bob Geren said. "We made too many mistakes at the end. This last six or seven weeks we've played some good baseball. This past week was not one of them."

Ervin Santana followed Saunders with two scoreless innings, striking out the side in the seventh. Darren Oliver worked the eighth and Kevin Jepsen got the final three outs for his first career save.

Gray was the third of seven A's pitchers in the all-bullpen start. Rookie Brad Kilby opened the game with two scoreless innings.

"It's been the best month and four days of my life," Kilby said. "It's one more start than I have in the minor leagues."

Nomar Garciaparra collected two hits in what was likely his final game in an A's uniform. He received a standing ovation after he struck out in the eighth.

Napoli led off the third with his 20th homer and the Angels added three runs in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Abreu had a run-scoring groundout, Hunter added an RBI double and Morales singled in the final run.

Napoli also scored on Craig Breslow's balk in the sixth.

Matt Carson had a sacrifice fly and Patterson hit an RBI single to give Oakland a 2-0 lead in the second. Cliff Pennington had singled in a run in the ninth.

Game notes
The Angels finished with an AL-high 48 road wins. ... The Angels set a team record for fielding percentage, committing a franchise-low 84 errors. ... Saunders improved to 4-1 against the A's this season. ... Aybar finished with a career-best 157 hits. ... Morales has nine RBIs in his last six games. ... The A's spent the last 155 days in sole possession of last place and a franchise-record 161 days overall. ... Oakland's Kurt Suzuki became the second catcher to lead the A's in RBIs with 88, joining Frankie Hayes (78) in 1944. ... Kilby's strikeout of Abreu in the first set a franchise record. The pitching staff finished with 1,124 strikeouts.