A's miss chance to tie Sox for AL's best record
Angels' Vargas twirls four-hit shutout to snap Oakland's streak
By Jane Lee / 9/25/2013 1:28 AM ET
ANAHEIM -- The A's had a chance to end Tuesday night tied with the Red Sox for best record in the American League, thanks to Boston's loss in Colorado.
With home-field advantage throughout the postseason on the line, this would have been a big development for the A's, who instead watched their sweltering offense go mute in a 3-0 loss at Angel Stadium.
Oakland was held to just four hits and one walk against Angels lefty Jason Vargas, one of which didn't even leave the infield, after totaling 49 runs over its past five games, all wins. In their last six games, the A's had also hit at least two homers, tying an Oakland record. On Tuesday, they didn't even get a runner past first base.
It's the 10th time the newly crowned AL West-champion A's have been shut out this season, but the first time since Aug. 4.
"Tonight was maybe a second-day-after-clinching hangover," said catcher Derek Norris. "Last night, everyone still kind of had that adrenaline. ... Every game matters, and it would've been a nice night to gain on the people ahead of us, but might as well get it out of the way now and come back tomorrow and take the series."
Vargas, who notched his third complete game of the year and second shutout, was 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA in his previous four career starts against the A's, including an 0-1 mark with a 6.94 ERA in two starts this year.
But the southpaw breezed his way through a sluggish Oakland lineup, keeping anyone from scoring position. Alberto Callaspo had a shot at a double in the eighth inning, but a terrific throw from center fielder Josh Hamilton turned it into a single and an out at second base. Vargas struck out five, pitching with a lead since the start of the second inning and spoiling a rather commendable effort from A.J. Griffin.
"He pitched well, in and out, and used his changeup effectively," manager Bob Melvin said of Vargas. "To throw nine innings against a team that's been swinging the bat really well here as of late, he pitched well."
"I think anytime you go up against the team that won the division you want to pitch well," said Vargas.
Griffin, making his final outing before a likely start in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, offered up his Major League-leading 36th homer of the season in the first inning to Howie Kendrick. It was the second homer in as many days for the Angels second baseman.
Griffin struck out the side in the second inning but allowed a pair of runs in the third, issuing his only walk of the night in the inning, along with three hits -- the last a two-out, two-run bloop single to Hamilton.
Griffin threw 95 pitches through five innings, bringing his season total to exactly 200 innings, which leads the A's. He struck out seven, finishing with 171 total, along with 14 wins and a 3.83 ERA in his first full big league season.
"I feel pretty good about it," said Griffin. "Just trying to contribute here. We've got a great thing going on this club, and I look forward to continue doing great things here."
Griffin called the 200-inning plateau "a milestone that you're shooting for every year, and to be able to get there is pretty satisfying."
"I wish the outcome of today would've been a little different," he said, "but their guy did a pretty good job today. Some home runs happen, but that's just baseball and you try to do your best every time."
Of Griffin's 36 home runs allowed, 25 have been of the solo variety, which is why they're not so much of a factor for Melvin when the A's manager maps out his postseason rotation.
"I don't think that really plays into it," he said. "He gives up some home runs. I've been around a lot of pitchers who give up a lot of home runs and a lot of solo ones, but his ERA is pretty manageable for what he's done. If he's giving up doubles that are driving up runs or solo homers, I really don't think it makes a difference.
"He's been consistent all year. Like anybody, he's had a rough stretch or two, but you look at the overall body of work, it's been pretty consistent and something to be proud of for him."
"He threw the ball well," Norris added. "I'm sure the next question is going to be about the home run, and I'm going to beat you to the punch and say I really don't care how the one run gets in. It could be a one-run single or a solo homer, I don't care. It's one run, and that shouldn't hurt us. He pitched good enough and we obviously couldn't put up the runs to support it. That's his last start of the season, and he probably wanted to go out on a better note, but he's thrown well the entire year and this doesn't take away anything from that."