Oakland A's Notes: Lucky Threes

ANAHEIM - Like the TNT Network, the Oakland A's and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim know drama. In their most recent series (the winner of which was guaranteed a spot atop the AL West) the winning team scored three runs in all three games.

It was the 10th time in 12 games between the A's and Angels this year that the final outcome was two runs or less, including five one-run affairs. Twenty-one of the last 31 games that have been decided by two runs or less.

The latest was a 3-2 A's win on Wednesday, which included a runner scoring from second base on a strikeout/wild pitch, and closer Huston Street going two innings for the save.

The Angels, who were once known as being a fundamentally sound baseball team, booted the ball all over the place on Wednesday, committing three errors and throwing two wild pitches. The wild pitch that scored the A's Marco Scutaro from second could have been called an error, as well. The pitch came on a third strike, so catcher Jose Molina threw to first to finalize the strikeout of Mark Ellis. However, rookie first baseman Howie Kendrick fell asleep and didn't throw home after recording the out at first, allowing Scutaro to score all the way from second.

On Tuesday night, the A's dropped a game in which two of the three runs they allowed were unearned.

The A's left Anaheim with a 1-1/2 game lead over the Angels, their closest division rival, and the team is quickly becoming their fiercest rival. Street called the rivalry "awesome."

"It's definitely heated, and it's more heated this year," Street said, who entered the rivalry late, having been in college during the A's-Angels battle in 2002 and in the minor leagues when the two teams battled to the final weekend in 2004.

"It's hard to put into words. You feel it. Off the field, we don't seem to hate each other. We seem pretty cordial and friendly. As soon as that first pitch is thrown, the same two guys hugging before the game are cussing each other during the game."

Added heat occurred in the eighth inning. Jay Payton was hit in the right hand by a Scot Shields pitch. Payton was on the ground for 5-10 seconds, then bolted up, furious, and had to be restrained. A few players from each dugout came out, but there was never a confrontation on the field.

"I know (Shields) is a good guy," said Payton, who will get X-rays to see if there's a break. "That's a reaction of feeling like your hand is broke. I'd been swinging the bat good and feeling good. I wasn't going anywhere. I was just really, really (upset). That's how I am now."

The game-winning run came moments before Payton was hit, when Mark Kotsay singled home Mark Ellis with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the A's 3-2 win. Ellis reached on a walk. Jason Kendall failed in his attempt to bunt Ellis over, and then dropped a single down the right-field line to move him to third.

A's Notes

--RHP Esteban Loaiza went 5 1/3 innings, the 11th time in 15 starts he's failed to go even six full innings, and 13th time he hasn't gone seven innings. He allowed eight hits, marking the seventh straight he's allowed more hits than innings pitched. He only allowed two runs, however, making some big pitches when he needed to, and getting a couple nice plays from his defense to assist him.

--SS Bobby Crosby finally went to get an MRI on his back Wednesday, 12 days after he first had to leave a game due to the pain. He's missed six games and departed two others early in the last two weeks. Crosby is mired in a prolonged slump: .179 with one home run and nine RBIs since June 19. He could head to the DL. Mike Rouse, who replaced Mark Ellis earlier this season, would be a candidate to replace Crosby on the A's roster. D'Angelo Jimenez, the former Cincinnati Reds starter, is another possibility. He was signed to a minor league free agent deal last month and was named the PCL Hitter of the Week last week. Jimenez was nearly released from Triple-A Sacramento a couple weeks ago, when his average wasn't far above .100. After getting contact lenses, he caught fire, raising his average to .287 with solid defense.

--RF Milton Bradley's temperature went down during Tuesday's game, which allowed him to pinch hit, but it was back up Wednesday morning and he was scratched by the trainers because of that and a sore throat. A's manager Ken Macha said he pinch hit Bradley for Nick Swisher in Tuesday's game because Swisher is 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against Francisco Rodriguez, and "I put my hottest hitter (no pun intended) up there in a do-or-die situation."

--LHP Scott Sauerbeck, on the disabled list with a groin strain, threw a bullpen session before Wednesday's game and will join Joe Kennedy in throwing a simulated game Friday in Seattle.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The number of Hawaiian-born players to play for the A's: Ron Darling (1991-95), Lenn Sakata (1986) and RHP Shane Komine (2006). Hawaiians Kurt Suzuki and Isaac Omura are two other candidates to make their debuts with Oakland over the next few years.

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