Hunter returns to Angels' lineup and steals home; K-Rod gets 59th save

OAKLAND, Calif. -- If K-Rod's memory serves him right, this might have been the first time he didn't point to the sky in salute of his grandfather following a save.

"I'd say probably yes," Francisco Rodriguez said after he had to work hard to extend his major league record with his 59th save. "I was upset with myself. I hope he doesn't get mad at me."

Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood hit solo home runs in order during a span of four pitches from Keith Foulke in the seventh inning and the AL West champion Los Angeles Angels withstood a late rally by the Oakland Athletics for a 6-4 victory Thursday to avoid a three-game sweep.

"It just happened," Napoli said. "We had the lead already and Kendry came up and put a good swing on a pitch. I came up and was just trying to drive a ball, and Woody put a good swing on a pitch and we happened to hit back-to-back-to-back."

Torii Hunter returned to the Angels lineup after injuring his cheekbone a day earlier, then stole home and hit a pair of singles. Hunter was hit in the right cheekbone by a ball while working in the indoor batting cage before Wednesday night's game. His second hit Thursday chased A's starter Josh Outman (1-1) in the fifth.

The Angels hit three straight homers for the first time since May 24, 2004, at Toronto, helping Joe Saunders (16-7) win his second straight decision -- just his second victory in nine starts. The Angels had hit back-to-back homers three other times this year.

"That's kind of special. That's weird," Hunter said. "I've been facing that guy for years when he was with the White Sox. I feel bad for him. It was fun to see it, but on the other side it's not nice."

Saunders pitched seven scoreless innings, allowed six hits, struck out four and walked three in an efficient 87-pitch performance.

The Angels, still dealing with injuries to several key starters, doubled their run total from the first two games of the series. They lost 8-1 on Tuesday and then 3-2 Wednesday night.

"It's a pretty good three-player at-bat right there," manager Mike Scioscia said of the home runs. "To see those kids get up there and swing the bats good in that inning is why we're excited about our player development and guys coming up."

The A's had their four-game winning streak snapped and were trying to match their season-best stretch of five straight victories, which they accomplished from April 8-12 and again from May 21-27. Oakland hasn't swept a series since taking all three at San Francisco from June 13-15 -- a span of 25 series.

Oakland loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth on a hit by pitch and two walks, then pinch-hitter Carlos Gonzalez singled in the A's first run.

After Jose Arredondo struck out pinch-hitter Travis Buck, Rodriguez entered and recorded the final two outs for his 59th save in 66 chances after blowing an opportunity Wednesday. Pinch-hitter Jack Cust drew a bases-loaded walk from Rodriguez, Oakland scored another run on Aaron Cunningham's groundout and Kurt Suzuki singled in a run.

"The way I've been throwing yesterday and today, I'm not really happy," Rodriguez said. "I can do a better job. Everything is there, the velocity's there. I'm not making the right pitches in the right situations. Tomorrow's another series, another game. I'll be all right. I hit a bump and had a couple of shaky outings. I always bounce back quick. It's nothing to be concerned about. When it's time for the playoffs, I'll be ready."

The A's had loaded the bases against Saunders with no outs in the fourth but couldn't capitalize. Saunders retired Jack Hannahan on a called third strike to escape the jam unscathed.

Oakland manager Bob Geren was pleased to see his team fight back after the three-homer inning.

"It was quick -- it was on four pitches," he said. "That's great about this team, they never quit."

Oakland's Jeff Baisley singled in the third for his first major league hit after starting 0-for-12. He singled again in the seventh.

Game notes
Scioscia is seriously considering a three-man starting rotation and to carry 10 pitchers for the first round of the playoffs. He isn't concerned with the opposing club possibly getting two chances against two Los Angeles pitchers in the best-of-five division series. "Our guys have enough experience to make the adjustments," he said. ... A's leadoff hitter Rajai Davis stole his 25th base with Oakland and his 29th overall after starting the year across San Francisco Bay with the Giants. ... The Angels expected to know more about 3B Chone Figgins' status Thursday night. He was to have his tender right elbow re-examined by team orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California. With 2B Howie Kendrick (strained hamstring) still on the DL, Figgins could be needed to play some at second next week. ... A's All-Star RHP Justin Duchscherer threw 10 pitches in a simulated game before feeling pain in his strained right hip. He won't start Saturday as the club had hoped and is doubtful for the remainder of 2008.