The Oakland Athletics got the second half of the 2011 season off to a solid start Friday night with a 5-3 victory over their division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels. The A’s got a solid five innings from Brandon McCarthy, timely hits from the top of their lineup, and key bullpen help down the stretch. It’s only one game but every win helps at this point.
Josh Willingham was the star of Friday night’s game as he was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. In the third inning he hit a two-run home run to give the A’s a 3-0 lead after Jemile Weeks had his own RBI single two batters earlier. In the eighth inning Willingham doubled to lead off the inning and was removed for a pinch-runner. The A’s led 4-3 at the time and a passed ball and Hideki Matsui single eventually scored the pinch-runner, Ryan Sweeney, to give the A’s a 5-3 lead. The lead held up but given that the Angels were on the comeback trail, the insurance run was much appreciated.
Brandon McCarthy made the start for the A’s and was solid through five innings. Although McCarthy only walked one batter, he gave up six hits and threw a lot of pitches, sending him to the showers in the sixth inning. Michael Wuertz came on in relief and struggled mightily. After McCarthy had given up a one out single, Wuertz came on and proceeded to walk Mark Trumbo and Russell Branyan to load the bases. He then walked Maicer Izturis to force in a run and make it 4-2.
Joey Devine then relieved Wuertz and had worked Mike Trout to a 3-1 count before he left with back spasms. Brad Ziegler came on in relief of Devine and gave up a 3-2 single to Trout that cut the A’s lead to 4-3. He then forced Erick Aybar to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Craig Breslow came on in the middle of the seventh inning, followed by Grant Balfour in the eighth and Andrew Bailey in the ninth to nail down the win.
The A’s and Angels will meet Saturday afternoon in a rare double-header. The first game is at 1:05pm pacific on FOX and features Trevor Cahill versus Jered Weaver. The second game will start 35 minutes after the first one ends and will air on CSN California. That game will feature Rich Harden and Ervin Santana.