(SportsNetwork.com) - As if the American League West was not already contentious enough, the Oakland Athletics and the L.A. Angels find themselves locked in a first-place tie as they prepare to close out a three-game series at the Coliseum Sunday night.
For the A's, who are set to hit the road for seven straight against Houston and again Los Angeles, they have by far the greatest run differential (plus-165) of any team in the majors, yet they needed a little bit of luck to pull off the 2-1 win last night thanks to a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning.
In that frame Oakland's Coco Crisp started things off with a single to center, advancing to second on a ground out and then to third on a similar play. After Derek Norris was hit by a pitch, LA pitcher Joe Smith uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Crisp to reach home and give the A's their third win in four tries.
"Fastball up and away," said Smith of his ill-timed mistake. "I threw it too high and it went to the backstop."
Smith came on in relief of Kevin Jepsen, who stepped in for Angels starter C.J. Wilson. One of the league leaders in pitches per game, Wilson exited after throwing 110, of which only 64 were strikes. The hurler permitted just a single run through 6 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and three walks as he struck out three in the no-decision.
Like Wilson, Oakland starter Jon Lester was also left out of the decision even after he threw seven strong innings, striking out seven and walking only one, while giving up a single run on five hits. Luke Gregerson was awarded the win following his uneventful innings, the save going to Sean Doolittle.
"No matter what type of expectation, or anything else that people put on me, I'm sure it's not going to be as high as what I put on myself," said Lester. "I expect myself to go out there every time and throw nine shutout."
Of the six hits logged by the Angels, two came from Erick Aybar who knocked in Howie Kendrick in the seventh before being stranded at third.
Mike Trout continued to watch his batting average sink as he struck out three times, giving him seven Ks in the last four games while his average dipped to .287.
Gunning for his 14th win of the season, Jered Weaver is set to take the hill for the Angels this evening in Oakland. The right-hander, who has registered double-digit wins in each of his nine professional campaigns in Anaheim, is coming off yet another no-decision in which the Angels ended up winning on Tuesday night at Boston.
Against the Red Sox, Weaver surrendered three runs on seven his and walked four, against just a single strikeout over 5 1/3 innings.
For his career, Weaver is 11-9 with a 2.53 ERA in 28 all-time appearances versus the Athletics.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir has been penciled in to counter for the A's in this meeting. A former member of the Angels himself, Kazmir has won five of his last seven decisions, including a victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday.
Against the Mets, the team that originally drafted him 15th overall in 2002, Kazmir gave up one run on four hits and three walks. The Texas native struck out six over as many innings as he won for the second time in three tries.
For his career, Kazmir is 2-3 with a 4.66 ERA in five all-time appearances against the Angels.