ANAHEIM (AP) — While the Angels are desperately trying to extend their season, the Oakland Athletics know exactly where they’re going next week.
At least the A’s can cause a little bit of drama for their California rivals on the way to their last-place AL finish.
David Murphy drove a pinch-hit single into left field to end it, and Los Angeles kept the pressure on in the wild-card race with its sixth consecutive victory, 5-4 Monday night.
Marcus Semien homered for the A’s, who had a lead in the sixth before Albert Pujols tied it with his 558th career homer. After Oakland failed to score in the final three innings against the Angels’ depleted bullpen, Murphy capped the ninth-inning rally in the A’s third straight loss and eighth in nine.
“Personally, I treat every game the same, but we want to be spoilers, of course,” Semien said. “We want to do everything we can to win a ballgame, no matter what, and whatever circumstances come out of that, that’s fine.”
Edward Mujica (3-5) retired the heart of Los Angeles’ order in the eighth, but gave up a leadoff single in the ninth to C.J. Cron, who had three hits. Mujica then fielded David Freese’s squib grounder in front of the plate and threw wild to first, allowing pinch-runner Collin Cowgill to advance to third.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Murphy’s sharp single off Fernando Abad set off fireworks at the Big A.
“When you play close games like that, sometimes (mistakes) will show up,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve seen it often this year. It comes down to us not getting a big hit late in the game, or making an error and them getting a big hit.”
Oakland has lost 16 of 22 to the Angels.
Johnny Giavotella and Erick Aybar had early run-scoring doubles as the Angels (82-74) remained a half-game behind the Houston Astros (83-74), who won at Seattle, and one game ahead of the Minnesota Twins (81-75), who beat Cleveland.
Los Angeles also closed within just two games of the AL West-leading Rangers (84-72), who lost to Detroit. The Angels finish the season with four games at Texas.
“It’s fun when you’re on the right side of a one-run game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “These guys have been putting everything into every pitch, every out, every play. We’re hanging in there. We’re grinding it out, and we’re getting clutch hits.”
Trevor Gott (4-2) recorded the final four outs for the Angels’ bullpen, which is missing closer Huston Street and eighth-inning specialist Joe Smith due to injuries.
Pujols connected for his 38th homer, his best total during the $240 million slugger’s four-year tenure with the Angels.
Felix Doubront yielded five hits, four walks and four runs in six innings for the A’s.
“Every time I go out there, I want to go six-plus (innings), help out the bullpen and help my team win games,” Doubront said. “That’s a tough lineup, so to get through six and hold them like that is really rough. But I did it.”
The Angels hoped for a long start from Hector Santiago after taxing their bullpen in recent days, but the All-Star left-hander didn’t quite deliver despite yielding only three hits and two walks. Santiago needed 24 pitches to escape the first inning with just one run allowed, and he was chased in the sixth after Jake Smolinski’s tying sacrifice fly. Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp then drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop single.
Athletics: Sonny Gray won’t pitch again this season due to hip soreness. Barry Zito will start Wednesday instead.
Angels: Smith thinks he can return from a sprained ankle this week. The Angels need their eighth-inning specialist with Street sidelined by a groin injury.
Athletics: Chris Bassitt (1-7, 3.07 ERA) has received more than one run of support just three times in his 11 starts.
Angels: Nick Tropeano (2-2, 4.35 ERA) is unbeaten in three September starts while filling in for injured Matt Shoemaker.