OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Brent Rooker hit his team-leading 23rd home run, Paul Blackburn pitched five innings for his second victory in six starts, and the last-place Oakland Athletics beat Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 on Saturday to win back-to-back games for the sixth time since the All-Star break.
At 41-95, the A’s still possess the worst record in baseball but have won seven of their last 12 while playing at one of their strongest levels of the season, according to manager Mark Kotsay.
“It was a solid game all around, both sides,” Kotsay said. ’”This streak right now that we’re on, the consistency that we’re showing night in and night out with how we’re playing the game, it’s probably the best stretch outside of that seven-game winning streak (in June).”
Rooker’s two-run drive off Griffin Canning in the fourth inning, was his eighth in 56 games at home and put the A’s ahead for good.
It came after Canning worked ahead in the count 0-2 before leaving a changeup over the plate.
“He threw both the slider and changeup in that at-bat,” Rooker said. “I felt like I saw both of them well so I felt comfortable kind of staying on fastball and then trying to adjust one of those pitches if he threw it. He just left that changeup up into the plate a little bit and I put a good swing on it.”
Blackburn (4-4) allowed four hits and one run with four strikeouts, raising his season total to a career-high 90, in a start that both Kotsay and the pitcher acknowledged wasn’t very strong.
“It was one of those outings where nothing could go right as far as pitches for me,” Blackburn said. “I didn’t have a feel for anything out there.”
One day after matching an Oakland-era record with eight doubles in the series opener, the A’s were limited to five total hits but made them pay off.
Pitching made the biggest difference for manager Kotsay’s team as five relievers followed Blackburn and combined for four innings of two-hit ball. Trevor May recorded the final three outs for his 16th save.
Mike Moustakas had two hits for the Angels while Luis Rengifo extended his hitting streak to 10 games, matching his career high.
Northern California native Kyren Paris got his first major league hit, a day after making his debut with Los Angeles.
Ohtani, the two-way Japanese star whose is facing a possible second Tommy John surgery after suffering a torn UCL earlier this month, leads the majors with 44 home runs but went 0 for 2 with three walks — two intentional.
“The one guy in their lineup that can really beat you is Shohei,” Kotsay said. “Both instances with the base open, we’re not going to let him beat us. We were fortunate today to be successful with that theory.”
Canning (7-5) struck out seven but allowed four hits and two runs in six innings. The right-hander, who beat the A’s earlier this season, remains winless in five career starts at Oakland.
The Angels got the tying run on in the ninth when pinch-hitter Michael Stefaic walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Nolan Shanuel grounded out, Ohtani was intentionally walked by May, drawing boos from the crowd of 13,709. Brandon Drury then flew out to end it.
The Angels began the game with back-to-back walks off Blackburn followed by a one-out broken-bat single from Moustakas. A’s shortstop Nick Allen then made backhanded grab of Rengifo’s short pop-up into the outfield grass but slipped and fell as Schanuel scored.
PARIS GETS FIRST HIT AT HOME ON ROAD
Paris singled over the outstretched glove of Oakland second baseman Zack Gelof for his first major league hit then stole second base. Paris, who was born in nearby Berkeley and was a fan of the A’s growing up, was a second-round pick in 2019 out of high school.
A’s left fielder Tony Kemp has been one of the team’s best and most versatile defenders this season and showed why with a leaping catch near the wall to rob Rengifo of a hit in the sixth inning. Kemp has started 42 games in left and another 46 at second base.
ROSTER MOVE Athletics: Claimed RHP Devin Sweet off waivers from Seattle and optioned him to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Angels LHP Tyler Anderson (5-6, 5.58 ERA) faces the A’s for the second time this season in the series finale Sunday and is trying for his 50th career victory. LHP Kyle Muller (1-5, 7.67), winless since May 5, starts for the A’s.