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Athletics can clinch AL West with victory vs. Angels

Sep 23, 2006 - 2:47 PM LA Angels (82-71) at Oakland (90-63) 4:05 pm EDT

OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- The Oakland Athletics have hammers in their hands.

The Athletics look to put the final nail in the coffin of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and clinch their first division title in three years when the American League West rivals hook up Saturday afternoon.

Anaheim has won the division each of the last two seasons, but Oakland appears ready to take over the reigns. The A's have a magic number of two to clinch, meaning a victory over the Angels on either Saturday or Sunday gets the job done.

Oakland won its fourth straight game in Friday's series opener, 5-4. Marco Scutaro delivered the game-winning hit in the 12th inning for the Athletics, who also received home runs from Nick Swisher, Milton Bradley and Eric Chavez.

Meanwhile, the Angels lost for the third time in four games following an eight-game winning streak. They will try to stay alive behind John Lackey (11-11, 3.73 ERA), who has had considerable success against the A's in his career.

The righthander is 7-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 16 lifetime starts vs. Oakland. This season, Lackey is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts against the Athletics, who are hitting just .134 against him in those outings.

Lackey, who is just 1-5 in his last nine starts, will be opposed by Joe Blanton (16-11, 4.74).

Blanton currently is tied with Barry Zito for the team lead in victories. He allowed two runs in five innings Monday en route to a 5-4 win against the Chicago White Sox.

In eight career appearances - six starts - against the Angels, Blanton is 0-5 despite a respectable 3.28 ERA. He is 0-2 with a 4.38 ERA in two outings vs. Anaheim this year.

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