Matthews keeps Angels rolling
Shane Loux had a 5 1/2-year gap between his first two major league victories. He wasn't willing to wait nearly as long for No. 3 with the surging Los Angeles Angels.
Gary Matthews Jr. drove in three runs, Loux provided another solid start by Los Angeles' patchwork rotation, and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3 on Tuesday night for their sixth win in eight games.
Chone Figgins had three hits and drove in two runs for the Angels, who wrapped up an excellent road trip by sweeping a two-game miniseries from their AL West rivals.
Loux (2-2) allowed five hits and one run over seven innings as the latest unlikely stopper in the Angels' ravaged rotation. Before beating Baltimore last week, Loux hadn't won in the majors since September 2003 with Detroit, undergoing major elbow surgery and missing nearly every day of two seasons.
But Loux was the Pacific Coast League's pitcher of the year in 2008, and he's making the most of his opportunity to start while the club waits for John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana to return from injuries.
"I'm not even trying to replace those guys," Loux said. "My goal coming out of spring training was to make their decision hard (on the final rotation spots). I think I'm doing that, but we can't wait to get those guys back."
Loux allowed just two runners to reach third base.
"They trusted us," Loux said. "They didn't go out and buy a free agent. I know it means a lot to guys like me and (Dustin) Moseley, who have had chances in the past and didn't deliver. Our goal was to make them look like smart guys."
Even the Angels' much-maligned bullpen only had one hiccup in Oakland. After Scot Shields yielded Matt Holliday's two-run homer in the ninth, Brian Fuentes got two outs for his seventh save in nine chances.
"These guys are getting their chance, and they're pitching well," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "Shane made some adjustments in his game, got into counts where his sinker got himself out of trouble, and turned the momentum of the game early."
Dallas Braden (3-3) yielded eight hits and five runs in six innings for the A's, who have lost three straight to fall six games below .500 (9-15) for the first time this season.
Aside from Holliday's homer to straightaway center and Travis Buck's early RBI double, Oakland's punchless lineup had another meek game. Jason Giambi struck out twice to extend his skid to 8 for 55, but he walked before Holliday halted his 6-for-41 slump with his third homer in a week, following a 25-game homerless streak.
"I think everybody wants to contribute," A's manager Bob Geren said. "Everybody wants to win very badly, and we just need to concentrate on the little things and not so much carry the burden on any one guy."
The A's began the night last in the majors in runs, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and extra-base hits, just as they ended last season. Oakland managed just 12 hits in the two-game series.
Oakland's youthful starting pitchers also have failed to reach the seventh inning in 12 straight games, the traditionally pitching-rich organization's longest such stretch since August 1997. The A's starters have pitched just 128 2-3 innings this season, fewest in the majors.
"It's imperative that we get at least six innings out of each one of us," Braden said. "It can be kind of pressure-stricken for some of the younger guys who aren't quite as technically sound at this point. ... You've got to keep fighting, and you've got to make better pitches."
After the game, Los Angeles optioned 3B Brandon Wood to Triple-A Salt Lake and recalled OF Reggie Willits. ... Oakland activated OF Ben Copeland from the DL and optioned LHP Dana Eveland to Triple-A Sacramento. Eveland was expected to be a regular starter in the A's painfully young rotation, but he is 1-2 with a 7.20 ERA in six appearances. ... Angels LHP Darren Oliver pitched the eighth in his first appearance since coming off the DL Monday.