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Athletics
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Athletics push Angels to brink

Sep 23, 2006 - 6:06 AM OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- The Oakland Athletics are one step closer.

Marco Scutaro singled to center to score Bobby Kielty in the bottom of the 12th inning, helping the Athletics push the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the brink of elimination with a 5-4 victory.

The Athletics (90-63) sliced their magic number to two and they can clinch the American League West Division title with a victory over the Angels either on Saturday or Sunday.

"They've clinched on our home field the last two years and hopefully we can do that here this year," Kielty said. "It would be nice to clinch on our home turf while they're here, it would be sweet revenge. Obviously our chances are really, really, good right now."

Anaheim (82-71), which has won the division the past two seasons, is eight games behind Oakland with nine to play.

"Our backs have been against the wall for a while now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We need to get on a roll. You never know what might happen. We just need to come out tomorrow and start from scratch and keep going. Our guys won't melt, we know that."

Kielty started the decisive inning when he doubled off closer Francisco Rodriguez (2-3) and went to third on Jay Payton's groundout. After Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, Scutaro hit a deep fly ball to center, scoring Kielty with the winning run.

"I was just trying to make contact," Scutaro said of his second game-winning hit and eighth in two seasons. "With a guy like Rodriguez, you have to look for a certain pitch. After two strikes, though, I was just looking for a pitch, any pitch, and trying not to miss it."

"I remember last time in Anaheim, he had some pretty good cuts off him," A's manager Ken Macha said. "I felt pretty good with him up there and he was able to come through for us."

The Angels tied the game, 4-4, in the ninth off A's closer Huston Street. Pinch hitter Erick Aybar singled and scored when Maicer Izturis's blooper to left fell in front of a diving Jay Payton.

The left fielder regrouped and threw home, but his throw was cut off by Street, whose poor relay skipped past Jason Kendall, allowing Aybar to score the tying run. Street was assessed an error on the play.

"That was quite a baseball game out there tonight," Macha said. "It had diving catches, guys thrown out at the plate, big home runs, it was a tremendous baseball game. If you can't get entertained by that one, tune into the Super Bowl."

After Howie Kendrick's homer in the top of the seventh gave the Angels a 3-2 lead, Oakland tied the game in the bottom of the frame when Eric Chavez homered off Anaheim starter Jered Weaver.

"I felt like I threw the ball well," Weaver said. "I just left a couple of pitches up and they hit them out of the park, as well they should have."

The A's took a 4-3 lead in the eighth when Milton Bradley smacked his 12th homer to right. Bradley was later ejected by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa for arguing after he struck out in the 11th.

Brad Halsey (5-4), the fifth Oakland pitcher, worked around two walks in the 12th for the victory.

Barry Zito started for Oakland, allowing three runs on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings.

"It was basically a playoff game today," Zito said. "It was everything we expect in October. We haven't had that atmosphere here in a few years. It's good for our team to get prepared, under these circumstances, for do-or-die baseball."






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