ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -Starting pitching was the key to the Angels' run of five division titles in six years. And it's that very same thing manager Mike Scioscia hopes will help Los Angeles overcome a shaky start to the season.
Joel Pineiro pitched a four-hitter for his sixth career shutout, Bobby Abreu hit a two-run homer and Los Angeles completed a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 4-0 victory on Sunday.
``In this division, the team that pitches the best and plays the best defense is going to be on top,' Pineiro said.
Pineiro had two shutouts last season with St. Louis, a two-hitter against the Mets and a three-hitter against the Cubs. This one was played in 2 hours and 6 minutes - just two days after lefty Joe Saunders outpitched Dallas Braden with a five-hit shutout that lasted 2:05.
In the Angels' 18 victories, their starters have a 1.82 ERA. In their 21 losses, it's 7.13.
``We're only going to go as far as our starters are going to perform. And if this weekend is any indication, hopefully we're starting to make some strides forward,' Scioscia said.
``After what Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and now Joel Pineiro did, it gives us a lot of confidence that the depth in our rotation is going to play forward. And we need it. You can't overstate how important that is to us,' he said.
Pineiro (3-4) struck out five, walked one and threw just 98 pitches. He retired 20 of the last 24 batters after giving up the first of two singles by Jack Cust.
``I was getting ahead in the count and was able to get a lot of groundball outs.' Pineiro said. ``Everybody knows the sinker is my pitch. So if I keep it down, hopefully it's going to get good results.'
Pineiro, signed by the Angels after they lost John Lackey to free agency, was coming off a no-decision against Tampa Bay in which he threw 6 1-3 scoreless innings. He had lost his previous five starts against the A's.
``This is what we expect from J.P. I'm not talking about the shutout, but just making his pitches and changing speeds,' Scioscia said. ``We can really shrink the field defensively when he has his command.'
Trevor Cahill (1-2) allowed three runs, five hits and no walks over seven innings. His catcher was Kurt Suzuki, who was reinstated from the disabled list earlier in the day after missing 19 games because of a strain his ribcage. The team went 7-12 without their RBI leader from last season.
Torii Hunter led off the second inning with a flyball to straightaway center field that was misjudged by Eric Patterson, who thought he was closer to the fence than he actually was. He leaped for it and it fell behind him for a double. Hunter advanced on a groundout and scored on Hideki Matsui's single.
Moments before Kendry Morales' groundout, Cahill thought he had a chance to pick off Hunter at second with the switch-hitting Morales up. But shortstop Cliff Pennington didn't cover the bag as Hunter slid back headfirst, and Cahill showed his frustration at having to hold onto the ball. One inning earlier, Cahill nabbed Abreu at first with the 10th pickoff by the A's staff.
``I was kind of frustrated,' Cahill said. ``I thought he was stealing and I thought I was going to get him cheating going to third, but he didn't go. In a close game like that, I was pretty intense because Pineiro looked pretty sharp from the get-go and I knew every run was going to be important.'
Patterson made another leaping attempt in the sixth - only this time, he made it at the fence in left-center and ran out of room as Abreu circled the bases with his fifth home run. Abreu had gone hitless in his nine previous career at_bats against Cahill. The homer followed a two-out single by Howie Kendrick that snapped a string of 12 straight batters that the right-hander retired.
``I don't think we saw as many sinkers as we normally would from him,' said Kendrick, who had an RBI single in the eighth against Henry Rodriguez. ``Early in the game, Cahill kept us at bay and was doing his job, and then Bobby gave us a couple more runs. But with what Pineiro did today, we didn't have to do much offensively.'
NOTES: After the game, the Angels activated rookie C Bobby Wilson from the 15-day DL and optioned C Ryan Budde to Triple-A Salt Lake. Wilson hasn't played since April 23, when a collision with the Yankees' Mark Teixeira left him with a concussion and an injured left ankle. Budde committed two passed balls last Wednesday against Tampa Bay, each of which allowed a run to score. ... The next three series between the teams will be in Oakland. The A's don't return to the Big A until Sept. 27.
The Associated Press News Service
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