for this game

Angels continue dominance over Blanton, keep alive slim chances

Sep 23, 2006 - 11:01 PM OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Joe Blanton knows his luck against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will change one day. Unfortunately for the Oakland Athletics, Saturday was not that day.

Juan Rivera's three-run double off Blanton highlighted a four-run sixth inning for the Angels, who stayed alive in the American League West Division with a 6-2 triumph over the Athletics.

With the victory, Anaheim (83-71) climbed within seven games of first-place Oakland (90-64) in the AL West with eight to play. The Athletics' magic number to clinch their 14th division title remained at two.

"You don't have to get hit in the head with a brick to know it was a must-win situation for us today," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You can't change anything you do. You're not saving anyone for the long haul right now. We just need to play good baseball. We were able to do that today and we got the win."

"Everything is still in our favor right now," Blanton said. "We're not the ones who are hoping someone will lose or hoping to beat somebody. If we win, it's ours. We're feeling pretty good. We'll see what happens."

Entering with an 0-5 lifetime mark against the Angels, Blanton (16-12) held a 2-1 lead after five innings. However, the righthander struggled in the sixth, allowing four runs, three hits and both his walks in the frame.

"I think I've thrown well against them, even though the record doesn't show it," said Blanton, whose career ERA vs. Anaheim climbed to 3.81. "I thought I threw the ball well today. It was one of those days where one swing of the bat made a good day look bad."

Maicer Izturis drew a leadoff walk and Orlando Cabrera followed with a double. After Vladimir Guerrero popped out and Garret Anderson was walked intentionally, Rivera drilled a shot off the left field wall for a double, scoring all three runners for a 4-2 advantage.

"I was trying to hit the ball deep," Rivera said. "I was looking for a soft pitch, and he threw me one. I didn't want to hit into a double play, like I did last night, so I just tried to hit the ball hard."

Adam Kennedy followed with an RBI double and rookie Howie Kendrick tacked on a sacrifice fly in the eighth for the Angels, who also entered the day eight games behind the Minnesota Twins (90-63) for the top spot in the AL wild card standings.

Blanton - who had won three of his previous four decisions - fell to 7-3 against AL West opponents, with all three losses at the hands of Anaheim. He allowed six runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out two.

"I don't feel disappointed," Blanton said. "I'm the one who gave up the runs and got the loss."

As unsuccessful as Blanton has been against the Angels, John Lackey (12-11) has been the opposite vs. the Athletics. The righthander improved to 8-2 in 17 career starts against Oakland by yielding just two runs, four hits and two walks in seven innings.

"It was a pride thing for me," Lackey said. "It was my motivation going in. I didn't want to watch (them celebrate) on my day. We're still mathematically alive. If we're going to go down, we might as well go down fighting. I knew coming into this series that I would be pitching in a big game, and I was ready."

"We did our normal thing against him today," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "We fouled a lot of pitches off and had some good at-bats. He has four pitches, and they were all working for him. We just couldn't put any of his pitches away."

Lackey, who had dropped five of his previous six decisions, struck out five.

"We had some tough at-bats," said Oakland's Eric Chavez, who went 0-for-4. "He threw 120 pitches against us today. We didn't give anything away, we made him earn it. Obviously, he was just the better pitcher today."

Nick Swisher and Jason Kendall drove in runs for the Athletics, who had won four straight and eight of nine.

"No one's disappointed," Chavez said. "We lost the ballgame to a guy who was throwing extremely well, that's all there is to it. We just have to come out tomorrow and try to finish it then."

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