The Oakland Athletics’ offensive output was expected to taper off a little bit after a red hot run recently, but they weren’t looking for it to cease completely, but that’s what happened Tuesday night as Jason Vargas threw a four-hit complete game shutout to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-0 victory over the AL West champs.
Vargas threw 110 pitches on the night and faced only two batters over the minimum — once in the very first inning when Jed Lowrie had a two-out single, and then in the top of then ninth when he issued his only walk of the night to Daric Barton.
Lowrie accounted for another knock in the seventh when he got an infield single, and Derek Norris and Alberto Callaspo were the only other players to record a hit, Norris with a single in the second and Callaspo with a single in the eighth, whereupon he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
A.J. Griffin took the loss, throwing five innings with three earned runs, seven strikeouts and one walk. He started off the game by surrendering his obligatory home run of the day, this one a solo shot by Howie Kendrick with one out in the top of the first. That makes it 36 on the year for the right-hander, but true to form, he didn’t let it get to him as he got through the inning and then struck out the side in the second.
A nice piece of hitting by Josh Hamilton gave the Angels two more runs in the third. Tommy Field and J.B. Shuck had consecutive one-out singles to start off the rally, and after striking out Kendrick and walking Mike Trout, Griffin threw a fastball low that cut out over the plate to Hamilton, who connected on the end of his bat to drop in a blooper to left. The result was a 3-0 lead for the Halos, and that was the last real stretch of offense that would be seen in a decidedly low-key contest that lasted a mere two hours and 17 minutes.
Most of the credit for the stalemate goes to Vargas, who retired 15 batters straight from the second inning until the seventh, shutting down an Oakland offense that has been unstoppable as of late.
The A’s remain one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the best record in all of baseball, and with it home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Boston lost 8-3 to the Rockies earlier in the evening. The defeat also brings Oakland’s five-game winning streak to an end, and Vargas also snapped Josh Donaldson’s streak of 28 games of getting on base.
The two teams will be back in action tomorrow at 12:35 PST in the rubber match of the three-game series.