Hunter’s RBI in 11th leads Angels to sweep of A’s |

Hunter’s RBI in 11th leads Angels to sweep of A’s

AP Sports Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Torii Hunter’s two-out single had barely hit the outfield grass when pink fireworks shot up from the fake rock pile at Angel Stadium.

At least the Los Angeles Angels were able to finish up the home portion of their hugely disappointing season with a modest celebration.

Hunter drove home Jeff Mathis in the 11th inning, and the Angels wrapped up their home slate with a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.

After Los Angeles failed to score with the bases loaded and one out in both the ninth and 10th innings, Mathis and Howie Kendrick singled in the 11th against Brad Ziegler (3-7). Hunter then lined his hit to center, finishing a sweep of the A’s for the dethroned AL West champions.

“Man, I was trying to get that over with,” Hunter said. “I was the DH, so I was falling asleep and drinking coffee. I think all of us were looking for somebody else to do it, and we finally got it done.”

Kendrick had three hits for the Angels, who will miss the postseason for the first time since 2006 and just the third time since their only World Series title in 2002. Their three-year reign atop the division officially ended last weekend when the Texas Rangers clinched the title in Oakland.

“It was good for him to get that hit today,” manager Mike Scioscia said of Hunter. “At times (this season), he felt like he was a one-man band, and it’s tough to drive in runs when nobody’s on. But Torii just keeps playing ball, and that’s why he’s so good.”

Rajai Davis had a run-scoring double for the A’s, who have lost six straight while falling behind Los Angeles into third place in the AL West. Oakland managed just three singles in the final six innings of their 81st loss, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season since reaching the 2006 ALCS.

“We had great pitching and plenty of opportunities, but we couldn’t hold on to it,” manager Bob Geren said. “I didn’t count all the opportunities we had, but we had more than our fair share.”

The Angels swept a series for the eighth time this season while preventing Oakland from winning the California clubs’ season series for the first time since 2003.

Bobby Cassevah (1-2) pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn his first major league victory in his 14th appearance for Los Angeles.

Anaheim native Bobby Cramer pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning for the A’s in the 30-year-old rookie’s fourth major league start. He was cheered enthusiastically by his hometown fans in his first appearance at Angel Stadium, where the erstwhile substitute math teacher attended games while he was out of baseball four years ago.

“I could hear my mom clear as day on the mound,” said Cramer, whose father returned from Alaska in time to see his son pitch in the majors for the first time. “She has that voice you can hear. It’s a pretty neat feeling.”

Joel Pineiro allowed five hits over seven strong innings in the final start of his first season with the Angels. He won 10 games for Los Angeles despite missing nearly two months with a strained muscle in his side, returning for three consecutive solid starts in late September.

“It’s nice to go out on a good note coming back from the injury,” Pineiro said. “I’m going to build on that.”

Mark Trumbo scored Los Angeles’ first run on Kendrick’s groundout in the third inning. Oakland evened it in the fifth when Chris Carter scored on Davis’ double.

Cramer spent nearly five months of this season in the Mexican League before returning to the A’s organization with Triple-A Sacramento last month. He won his first two major league starts earlier this month, and he battled Los Angeles’ lineup throughout a sweltering afternoon in Orange County.

Geren finally pulled Cramer after Erick Aybar’s two-out single on his 118th pitch. When his fans above the Oakland dugout gave him a standing ovation, Cramer responded to his hometown crowd with a sweeping wave of his hat.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Cramer said, even while eyeing the banana costume his teammates forced him to wear on their flight to Seattle.

“To me, this was the big leagues,” Cramer said of Angel Stadium. “Playing in all the other parks is great, but to finally come home and pitch at the stadium I grew up in is special.”

Reliever Boof Bonser narrowly escaped the jam, stranding two runners in scoring position. Los Angeles stranded eight runners over the final four innings before winning it.

Notes: The Angels won’t renew the contract of Eddie Bane, their director of scouting for the past seven seasons. … Carter’s fifth-inning single snapped an 0-for-38 slump on the road. … Los Angeles must win three of four in its season-ending series at Texas to avoid its first losing season since 2003.