(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim may have failed in their quest to capture a fourth consecutive American League West title, but the team still has a chance to finish ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the division.
Second place in the West will be on the line this afternoon at Angel Stadium, where the home team has its sights set on a three-game sweep of the struggling Athletics.
Anaheim had lost four in a row heading into this set, but has prevailed in each of the first two matchups to pull even with Oakland in the standings with identical 77-80 records. The Angels came through with a 4-2 victory last night, scoring two times in the bottom of the sixth inning to overcome a one- run deficit.
With Anaheim trailing 2-1 in its half of the sixth, Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter had back-to-back singles and Mike Napoli followed with a base hit to bring home Abreu with the tying run. Hunter then crossed the plate on Hideki Matsui's ground out for a 3-2 advantage.
The rally made a winner of Dan Haren (4-4), with the former Oakland hurler holding his ex-team to two runs on six hits while striking out five over the first six innings. Three Angel relievers combined to shut the A's out the rest of the way, with Fernando Rodney notching his 14th save with a scoreless ninth.
Dallas Braden (10-14) took the loss for Oakland after allowing four runs (three earned) and 10 hits in seven innings of work. Kevin Kouzmanoff had a solo homer in the setback, while Mark Ellis finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single for the Athletics.
Oakland has now dropped five straight games, matching its longest skid of the season.
"We're obviously losing ground," Braden told MLB.com afterward. "As hard as it is to play for second place, we've still got jobs to do, and you don't ever want to give a team like that the kind of chance to gain ground or potentially pass you up."
The Angels will send out Joel Pineiro today in hopes of completing the series sweep, with the veteran right-hander set to make his third start since coming off the disabled list earlier this month.
Pineiro hasn't registered a decision in either outing following his return from an oblique strain which sidelined him for two months, but pitched well both times. He surrendered two runs in six innings at Tampa Bay on September 18, then limited the Chicago White Sox to a run and four hits over eight frames this past Friday, with 17 of those 24 outs recorded on ground balls.
The offseason addition owns a 9-8 record with a 4.29 earned run average in 24 lifetime appearances (19 starts) against Oakland and fired a four-hit shutout to defeat the A's in Anaheim back on May 16.
Oakland hands the ball to Bobby Cramer, an Anaheim native who will be pitching in his home city for the first time and makes the fourth start of his brief big-league career.
The 30-year-old, who spent the 2005 and '06 seasons out of professional baseball and had been pitching in an independent league before signing with the Athletics last season, earned a callup to the majors when rosters expanded this month and won his first two starts. After limiting Kansas City to a run and four hits over 5 1/3 innings in his September 13 debut, Cramer permitted two runs in 5 2/3 frames to best AL Central champion Minnesota on the road six days later.
The left-hander's most recent effort didn't go as well, as Cramer was reached for four runs in six innings in a home loss to playoff-bound Texas on Friday. He served up two homers in that game and has allowed five in only 17 innings at the major league level.
The Angels have won 10 of their 18 meetings with Oakland so far this season, and the A's have lost six of eight games to the Angels held at the Big A in 2010.