Angels fall again in another fan fest

Magic number still four as A's win

ANAHEIM -- At a time when they'd like to be gathering momentum, the Angels are sputtering, spinning and sliding.

The sports car they raced through June, July and August at breakneck speeds apparently was exchanged for a jalopy.

The offense remained stalled in its own exhaust on Friday night in front of 43,242 at Angel Stadium, where left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Oakland bullpen put a stranglehold on the Angels in a 3-0 decision.

The hottest team in the American League West, the last-place A's kept the Angels' magic number for clinching the division title at four.

The only breeze circulating on the warm night at the ballpark was created by the Angels' bats, which generated nothing but more hot air.

After striking out 15 times Wednesday against the Yankees, the Angels have been sent back to the dugout 28 times in the past two games.

Asked if his club was running into some stellar pitching, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "No, it's a product of a lot of guys in our lineup are soft right now. Striking out 28 times in back-to-back games, it's a lot of easy outs you're giving the other club."

Scioscia said he would "tinker" with the lineup and "look at some things, reshuffle some things" for Saturday night's game against lefty Dana Eveland, with John Lackey getting the call against a club he has dominated.

In the series opener, Gonzalez (seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings), reliever Michael Wuertz (five in 1 2/3) and closer Andrew Bailey (one K, one inning) combined for 13 punchouts.

The Angels have a three-game losing streak, their AL West lead slipping to six games. The A's have won 10 of the past 12 and 15 of 19.

Despite pitching capably through six innings, Jered Weaver lost his third consecutive start for the first time in his career.

Weaver, dealing with an upper back issue that he said crops up every year, wasn't able to "finish off pitches" but said it was nothing serious and did not concern him heading into what figures to be his final regular-season start on Wednesday against Texas.

"It's a matter of what you're going to do when you don't have your best stuff," Weaver said. "We've got to work it out, stay on top of it. The trainers are well aware of it. It's not a concern."

Weaver had the A's shut out through four innings, but a leadoff walk to Daric Barton in the fifth proved costly.

After Eric Patterson singled with one out, ex-Angel Adam Kennedy rifled a single to right to score Barton.

The A's added a run in the sixth when Ryan Sweeney looped a double off the glove of shortstop Erick Aybar in shallow left-center, scoring on a two-out single to center by Barton.

"My fastball command was pretty erratic," Weaver said. "Some things fell. That's baseball.

"We've got to put some runs on the board. Gonzalez obviously did a great job."

Gonzalez, among the collection of lively young arms amassed by the Athletics in recent seasons, surrendered only four hits and a walk.

"It felt good with the curveball landing for strikes," Gonzalez said. "You can be a happy pitcher when stuff like that happens. I had all three pitches working tonight, so I'm thankful for that."

A's manager Bob Geren called it "one of the better performances he's had. He didn't walk a batter until the last guy, so that's what I was happy with. He didn't fall behind batters."

The Angels didn't have a hit against Gonzalez (6-6) until Jeff Mathis singled with one out in the third. Chone Figgins also singled, but Aybar hit into a double play.

Howard Kendrick was left stranded after a two-out double in the fifth, and Aybar's one-out triple was wasted in the sixth.

The A's padded their lead in the seventh when Patterson singled against Jason Bulger, stole second, took third on Mathis' throwing error, and scored on another Mathis error, his pickoff attempt at third sailing into left field.

Taking over for Gonzalez in the seventh, Wuertz struck out everyone he faced except pinch-hitter Reggie Willits, who had a leadoff single in the eighth. Wuertz tied his career high with five whiffs.

"The relief job Michael did might've topped Gio's performance, if you can believe it," Geren said. "He struck out five guys and allowed a little weak single. He struck out lefties and righties."

The Angels have gone 4-for-33 with runners in scoring position in the past three games, striking out 35 times and stranding 32 baserunners.

"It's a little funk we're going through," Weaver said. "We've got to get some momentum going."

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