ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - After all the years of winning under Mike Scioscia, the Los Angeles Angels find themselves facing a losing season for only the second time in his 11 seasons as manager. And the thought of it makes them cringe.
But pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui tied the game with an RBI single off Justin James, and the Oakland rookie forced in two more runs by hitting one batter with the bases loaded and walking another, helping the Angels beat the Athletics 6-5 on Monday night.
``You want to win as many games as you can, and at the end of the year you get your report card,' Scioscia said. ``The quest for championships never stops, even if you're eliminated - which obviously we are from winning our division. But there's no consolation prize to this.'
The Angels, who won division titles in each of the previous three seasons before their reign was ended by the Texas Rangers, need to go 5-1 the rest of the way just to finish at .500.
``When you're playing professional ball, you never give up as long as you're on the field,' right fielder Torii Hunter said. ``I always use this analogy: It's like a pickup basketball game. You want to win no matter what. We've got to win five out of six, and that's our goal. I mean, our real goal was to take over first place, and that didn't work out. So now we have another plan - to finish at .500. But saying `I want to grab second place' doesn't sound good.'
The A's need to win four of their final six games to give Bob Geren his first winning record in four seasons as their manager. The A's haven't had four straight losing seasons since a six-year stretch from 1993 through 1998.
``It's pride. You don't want to embarrass yourself on the field. You want to finish off strong,' second baseman Mark Ellis said.
Matsui greeted James with a tying RBI single to center, after Bobby Abreu chased A's starter Brett Anderson with a one-out single and Brad Ziegler (3-6) walked pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo.
James loaded the bases by walking Maicer Izturis, then grazed Erick Aybar with a pitch to force in the go-ahead run and walked pinch-hitter Hank Conger to bring in another and give the Angels a 6-4 lead.
``We got into good hitting counts, and it led to walks and Hideki's base hit,' Scioscia said. ``We had reports on James, but we didn't know much about him. He has a little sink to his pitches, but Hideki did a good job of staying inside the ball and driving it to left-center. Hank Conger did a good job of just being patient and looking for a pitch and ended up getting a walk.'
The A's got one back in the eighth. Jack Cust singled with two outs against Jordan Walden and Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove outfielder, lost Kurt Suzuki's liner in the lights for a triple. But Fernando Rodney got three outs for his 13th save in 19 chances.
``It seems like every time we play this team, when or where, it's always a great battle,' Geren said. ``We had the lead and could have very easily had more runs. We could have padded our lead and given ourselves some more breathing room but they got some big outs when they needed to and we left some guys on third with less than two outs.'
The Athletics loaded the bases for the third time in the game after Michael Kohn (2-0) took over for starter Ervin Santana in the seventh. But the rookie retired No.9 hitter Cliff Pennington on a fly ball to right that was too shallow for Suzuki to score on, and Rajai Davis struck out. Pennington is 2 for 16 in bases-loaded situations this season.
``We fought hard and battled back, and we were fortunate in some aspects tonight,' Scioscia said. ``I mean, there aren't many times when you're going to give the other team 21 baserunners and come out ahead. But our guys made some good pitchers with runners in scoring position to get out of jams.'
The Angels erased a 3-0 deficit with three runs in the second, including RBI singles by Izturis and Howie Kendrick. Izturis' hit came in his first plate appearance since Aug. 19, after he missed 33 games because of inflammation in his right shoulder.
``Maicer showed us the player that we sorely missed over the summer - not only at the plate, but in the field,' Scioscia said. ``He's definitely a guy, along with Kendry Morales, who would have had a major impact on our club if they had been out on the field more.'
Cust regained the lead for Oakland with a run-scoring single in the fourth against Santana, who was charged with four runs and 10 hits over six innings with six strikeouts and three walks. The right-hander was 9-2 in his previous 12 starts and came in 12-3 lifetime against Oakland.
Suzuki gave Oakland the lead in the first with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Jeremy Hermida led off the second with his first home run in an Oakland uniform, a drive that cleared the 18-foot wall in right field. The A's loaded the bases again later that inning before Ellis drove in Oakland's third run with an RBI single.
NOTES: Andrew Gallo was convicted Monday on three counts of second-degree murder for driving drunk in the car crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends in April 2009. ``I don't really want to reflect on it too much. I think that's something for the families to talk about and share their feelings about,' pitcher Jered Weaver said. ``Obviously, they're in a tougher situation than we are. I mean, he was our teammate and our friend, but Nick's family was the closest thing to him.' ... Oakland broadcaster Ray Fosse, who played for the A's from 1973-75, began his broadcasting career with them alongside the late Bill King, who doubled as play-by-play announcer for the Raiders. So Fosse felt a kinship with former Raiders Hall of Fame quarterback and placekicker George Blanda, who died Monday at age 83. ``Bill would talk about George Blanda all the time, and about the miracles he would perform to win games and the way he finished games. He was the miracle worker.'
The Associated Press News Service
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