What the 24-year-old rookie gleaned from those veterans was the benefit of throwing strikes and hitting spots. It all came together for Smith on Monday night in a four-hitter as the Oakland Athletics beat the defending AL West champions 6-1, reducing the Angels' division lead to 3½ games.
"I just kind of mixed speeds and locations enough to where they couldn't get comfortable and put a good swing on it," Smith said. "I think they were in-between speeds -- you know, maybe a little bit early on the changeup and dropping the bat head a little bit, and then late on the fastball."
Smith (5-6) lost his other two outings against the Angels this season -- including his other complete game in the majors on April 29, when Joe Saunders and Francisco Rodriguez combined on a 2-0 victory at Anaheim.
"I wouldn't say it made up for it, but it evens out," Smith said after his 16th major league start. "If you throw the ball well, good things will happen."
The left-hander struck out three and walked two, winning for the first time in six starts against division opponents. He threw 101 pitches.
"Any time a guy throws a complete game, it's something special because you don't see that a lot in this era of baseball. And he did it with a relatively low and safe pitch count," manager Bob Geren said.
"Every time we added on another run, it was huge because it gave him at least another hitter to face and helped his chances to get the complete game. If it was a save situation, it would have been tough not to give the ball to [closer Huston] Street right there. So I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
The Angels hit 14 fly balls to outfielders and popped up five other times. Only five outs were on ground balls.
"It's different when you're facing a guy that's kind of wild, but this guy threw strikes," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was throwing first-pitch strikes and got ahead, so you just can't let him throw a strike on the first pitch every time without swinging at it. We just missed a lot of pitches and popped them up. Nobody really did anything tonight."
Jon Garland (7-5) was charged with four runs -- two earned -- and eight hits in six-plus innings.
Eric Chavez, Oakland's Gold Glove third baseman, was 1-for-5 with a two-run double as the DH after missing the San Francisco series with a sore right shoulder. Teammate Ryan Sweeney, who also missed the previous three games after spraining his left ankle Thursday against Philadelphia, was 2-for-5 in the leadoff spot with an RBI double.
Slumping Angels left fielder Garret Anderson, batting .188 in June but a career .321 hitter against the A's, got the night off and Juan Rivera started in his place. Rivera committed a costly error that led to two unearned runs in the seventh that gave Oakland a 4-1 lead.
Sweeney led off the seventh with an infield hit and Kurt Suzuki hit a towering fly that sent Rivera drifting back to the warning track, where he dropped the ball trying to one-hand it a few feet from the fence and ended up with the two-base error. One out later, Chavez drove in both runners with a hard grounder past first baseman Casey Kotchman with the infield in.
Chavez's two RBIs increased his career total to 776, tying Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for seventh place on Oakland's all-time list.
Mike Napoli made it 2-1 with his 12th homer with two outs in the fifth. It ended a stretch of 32 innings in which the Angels scored only one run, including consecutive shutout losses at Dodger Stadium.
"Hitting is contagious, and it's the same thing when we're not," Hunter said. "It's a domino effect, and right now the dominoes are falling down. We're frustrated and the fans are frustrated, but trust me, we care and we're going to get through it."
The last batter to homer against Smith was five starts ago, a first-inning leadoff shot by the Angels' Maicer Izturis on June 7. ... Rodriguez needs two more saves to tie John Smoltz's record for the most before the All-Star break (34 in 2003). The team has 12 games left before the break.