And it all came down to one sweet swing by Bobby Abreu, who has been doing this for years.
After breaking up young Brett Anderson's bid for perfection with a two-out single in the seventh inning, Abreu won it in the 10th with a majestic drive to right field that handed John Lackey and the Angels a 1-0 decision over the Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Sunday.
Abreu's seventh homer of the season -- and first of his career in Oakland in 59 at-bats -- gave the Angels three of the four games in the series, leaving the A's ruefully frustrated.
"We had more chances than they did," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "They just had the one swing."
Lackey, moving to 5-4 with nine dominant innings, and Brian Fuentes, notching his Major League-high 28th save, made Abreu's stroke of fortune stand with some help from their friends in the field.
"It was a fastball, middle-in," Abreu said of the pitch he hit deep against Andrew Bailey, ending the Oakland closer's string of 15 1/3 scoreless innings. "I was looking for something to drive, to get it for the team -- and especially for Lackey. He threw a very good game. So did their guy. They pitched beautiful."
Lackey left old pal Adam Kennedy stranded at third in the ninth by retiring the dangerous Matt Holliday after catcher Bobby Wilson made a saving stab at the plate of a curveball in the dirt.
"You have to be another catcher to understand how difficult that is," Jeff Mathis said. "Bobby saved us back there."
Playing his first game of the season after Mathis left for a pinch-hitter in the ninth, Wilson made his mark before discovering he'd been returned to Triple-A Salt Lake to clear roster space for starter Sean O'Sullivan.
"I couldn't let that ball get past me," Wilson said, alluding to a 1-2 curveball by Lackey to Holliday that broke sharply into the dirt. "I used this whole body to block that one.
"As good as it feels to have their trust and make a contribution in a game like this, it's kind of bittersweet to go back down. I'll get my at-bats and stay sharp for the next time I get called up."
Lackey and manager Mike Scioscia raved about Wilson's play, which kept Kennedy anchored at third before Holliday fouled out to Brandon Wood at first.
"I wouldn't have thrown that pitch if I didn't [have confidence in Wilson]," Lackey said. "It was a tough one -- a good couple feet off the plate and wide. That was a great play by Bobby."
There were several others made behind Lackey, including Wood's diving stab of Orlando Cabrera's shot headed toward the right-field corner in the first inning and Erick Aybar's over-the-shoulder stab of a pop fly by Jason Giambi in shallow center leading off the eighth.
In the 10th, Fuentes got two quick outs before Bobby Crosby beat out an infield hit. Crosby was on the move, reaching third, when center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. fought the sun and won, grabbing Rajai Davis' fly ball inches off the grass.
"I had to wait for it to come out of the sun," Matthews said. "I had about two feet until it was about to hit the ground. You kind of feel like you're on an island by yourself. You've got to catch it. If you don't, he is standing on home plate. It's not a great feeling."
Until the ball settled inside the leather, that is -- and it was on to Kansas City, where O'Sullivan will open a three-game series on Monday night.
"That might have been some of the best stuff you've seen all year," Scioscia said, referring to both starters.
They were consistently in the mid-90s mph with big benders and exquisite control. Lackey allowed three hits and one walk in nine scoreless innings while striking out six. Anderson yielded two hits and no walks and struck out six in eight innings.
It was a typical Abreu at-bat that ended Anderson's bid for perfection.
Getting ahead 2-0 in the count, Abreu looked at a strike, then stayed back on a breaker and lashed it the other way. Cabrera, the Angels' former Gold Glove shortstop, had no shot at it.
"It was the same slider he struck me out with [in the fourth inning]," Abreu said. "I thought he was going to throw that pitch again. I stayed back and used my hands."
Anderson promptly picked off Abreu, keeping the Angels to the minimum in plate appearances until Howard Kendrick unloaded a two-out double to the gap in left-center in the eighth.
Mike Napoli, who'd been robbed of a hit on a backhanded stab by Kennedy at third base leading off the fifth, had watched his towering drive leading off the eighth fall a few feet short of the wall in left-center for a long out.
Lackey, who is 15-4 with a 2.66 career ERA against the A's, found a groove after Wood's sparkling play spared him some first-inning trouble.
In his second Major League start at first base, Wood robbed Cabrera of a likely double, sprawling to his left to stab the bullet and record the out. It looked even bigger when Scott Hairston followed with a single.
"It was all reaction, like being at third [base], only at a different angle," Wood said. "Scratch another play off my list."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less