A's play spoiler, shrink Angels' West lead

A's shrink Angels' West lead

ANAHEIM -- Known as "Obama" to teammates for his popularity with the media, Torii Hunter takes his campaign promises seriously.

"We'll get it going -- I promise you," Hunter said, the Angels having absorbed a 2-0 loss at the cool right hand of young Trevor Cahill and the Athletics' bullpen on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

With a double separating him from a cycle, Ryan Sweeney was a one-man wrecking crew in support of Cahill, who yielded just two hits across seven dominant innings while Ervin Santana was charged with the loss despite another solid six innings of work.

"Everything was good," Santana said, having yielded a pair of runs, Sweeney figuring prominently in both, on eight hits and two walks while striking out six. "I expect to win every time. But it's not a perfect game.

"More important than the results is feeling good. If we put everything together, we're going to win."

Losing for only the second time in 12 career decisions against the A's, Santana slipped to 7-7 as Cahill moved to 7-12.

"He was terrific," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Santana, who has given up just eight earned runs in his past 27 innings (2.67 ERA) in four quality outings. "His arm speed, velocity, the break on his slider ... everything's been consistent."

Athletics manager Bob Geren enjoyed the duel of quality righties.

"Santana pitched well," Geren said. "Our guy was just a little better."

Knocking out the Yankees earlier in the day, the resilient Rangers reduced the Angels' American League West lead to four games.

The division has been rough on its leader, with the Angels falling to 15-20 against the A's, Rangers and Mariners combined.

The inductions of Chuck Finley and Brian Downing into the Angels Hall of Fame delayed the game's start by about a half-hour, which could have had something to do with Cahill walking the first two men he faced, Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu.

But it was "huge," Cahill said, when he was able to eliminate Figgins as he strayed too far from second.

The Angels went quietly after that, putting just one runner -- Jeff Mathis, after a leadoff double in the sixth and a groundout by Figgins -- in scoring position until the ninth inning.

Cahill retired Abreu -- second in the AL with his .386 average with runners in scoring position -- on a popup and Hunter on a grounder to leave Mathis stranded.

The Angels left Hunter in scoring position in the ninth when closer Andrew Bailey retired Vladimir Guerrero on a sharp grounder to second baseman Mark Ellis. Hunter had bunted for a single and advanced on indifference.

"Early on, he was having trouble getting in the zone," Scioscia said of Cahill. "In the first inning, we let him off the hook. He's got good action, a good sinker."

Maicer Izturis, who flied out and grounded out against Cahill, thought his changeup was his big delivery.

"He had good movement down on the changeup," Izturis said. "It was a tough pitch to hit tonight."

Santana thought he made a good pitch to Sweeney -- a 95-mph heater -- but the right fielder wheeled on it with one out in the second inning and sent it rocketing into the seats in center above the Nick Adenhart memorial on the wall.

The game was originally scheduled for April 9, the day Adenhart -- hours after pitching six shutout innings against the A's -- and companions Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson were killed by a drunk driver in nearby Fullerton. The lone survivor in the car, Jon Wilhite, will throw out the honorary first pitch on Saturday night.

Sweeney singled in his second at-bat and was stranded at second before leading off the sixth with an opposite-field triple against the wall in left. Daric Barton's single to right-center cashed in Sweeney.

The play of the night came courtesy of Izturis and Erick Aybar in the heart of the diamond.

With one out in the seventh, Matt Palmer having relieved Santana, Kurt Suzuki grounded sharply through the middle.

Second baseman Izturis reached the ball with a sprawling dive, flipped with his glove to Aybar, who barehanded the ball and beat Suzuki with a strong throw.

"That's one of the best," Izturis said when asked how it rated. "We talk about it all the time. I'll tell Erick to be ready for a flip if I get a ball over the middle, and he'll do the same with me. He wasn't surprised. He was ready for it."

Scioscia applauded the choreography.

"You're not going to see a better one," Scioscia said.

Hunter, who rammed against the wall in center to take extra bases and an RBI away from Suzuki in the third, agreed.

"That was one of the best plays I've seen with my own eyes," Hunter said. "It was shocking."

So were all those zeroes on the scoreboard, the way the Angels' offense has been roaring. That, the man in the center of everything vows, will change very shortly.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.