ANAHEIM, Calif. -- At this time of the season, diplomacy can be just as important as pitching, hitting and defence. So even though the Oakland Athletics appear to have a decided edge against the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels, they aren't beating their chests about it.
Josh Donaldson hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning, Yoenis Cespedes also went deep and A.J. Griffin pitched eight solid innings Thursday night, leading Oakland to an 8-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that extended the Athletics' winning streak to eight games.
"They have a heck of a team, but sometimes you catch a team when they're down and we were lucky to do that," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They're one of the best teams in all of baseball. So anytime you come in here, you've got your work cut out for you. Tonight our offence has continued to flourish, and that takes some pressure off the rest of your game. This was probably our best game all the way around."
This was the first time Oakland swept the Angels in the first head-to-head series of a season since 2003, and the first time the Athletics swept their first series at the "Big A" since 1996. The defending AL West champions outscored the Angels 28-11 and were retired in order in only three of the 27 innings.
"It's always great to get off to a good start, but you have to maintain it because it's a long season," Melvin said. "If this was in the middle of the season and we had a run like this and they had a poor period, I don't think it would be significant. Those guys will go on a stretch where they play real well."
Seth Smith had four hits for the A's, who swept a road trip of six or more games for only the third time since the franchise relocated from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. They had a 10-0 trip in August 2002 and an 8-0 excursion in April 1981.
Griffin (2-0) allowed a run and five hits, struck out two and walked one. The right-hander did not allow a hit after giving up an RBI double by Howie Kendrick with one out in the fourth.
"I'm kind of at a loss for words, actually," Griffin said. "It's what you always want to go out there and do, just give your team a chance to win. I didn't have a real good feel for the curveball tonight, but I just tried to keep it in the back of their guys' heads and just attack the zone and get ahead of people."
Jason Vargas (0-1) was charged with five runs, 10 hits and three walks over 5 2-3 innings. The left-hander yielded just one run over 5 2-3 innings last Friday at Texas in his Angels debut, getting a no-decision in Los Angeles' 3-2 loss.
Vargas escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second when Smith grounded into a double play. But he wasn't as fortunate in the sixth, when Derek Norris doubled with one out and Donaldson drove his next pitch into the left-field bullpen after going hitless in 11 previous at-bats against Vargas.
"Vargas has pretty much had our number -- I know he's had my number," Donaldson said. "He's one of those guys who throws pitches that you're never looking for, it seems like. And if you are looking for it, it's just barely off the barrel of the bat. I've got a lot of respect for Vargas. He's probably one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. But we were able to grind some at-bats against him. We hit a couple of mistakes and that was the game."
Smith followed Donaldson's first homer of the season with a double, and Chris Young greeted Kevin Jepsen with a two-run double after Vargas intentionally walked his last batter, Coco Crisp. Cespedes greeted Sean Burnett with a leadoff homer to left-centre in the seventh, and the A's tacked on two more in the ninth against Jerome Williams.
"I would like to have that sixth inning back, but that's baseball," Vargas said. "The teams we've faced, they're really good offensive clubs. But I think everybody believes in the team we have."
The Angels' starting pitchers in the series -- C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Vargas -- gave up a combined 15 earned runs and 26 hits in 16 2-3 innings, and each of them allowed a home run. The Angels are off to a 2-7 start, the worst since the club's inaugural 1961 season (1-8). The bullpen has a 7.71 ERA over its last six games.
A's second baseman Andy Parrino, recalled from the minors after Scott Sizemore sustained a season-ending knee injury on Tuesday, got his first American League hit when he legged out a double to left-centre leading off the third inning. He scored the game's first run two outs later on a single by Jed Lowrie.
Angels left fielder Mike Trout, last season's AL Rookie of the Year, was moved from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole and was 0 for 4. Manager Mike Scioscia, whose offence produced a .120 average with runners in scoring position through the team's first eight games (9 for 75), made the move to give Trout more of an opportunity to drive in runs.
Trout was in the starting lineup 138 times last season following his promotion from Triple-A Salt Lake on April 28 -- all of them in the leadoff spot -- and finished with 83 RBIs, 30 homers and a .326 average. He started in 40 games two seasons ago and batted everywhere in the lineup except third.
NOTES: Two-time NL Gold Glove 1B Albert Pujols dropped Parrino's foul pop with two outs and runners at the corners in the fourth, but C Chris Iannetta was right there to make the grab before the ball hit the ground. Iannetta was 0 for 3 and is hitless in his last 17 at-bats. ... This was the first time Oakland began its road schedule with more than five consecutive wins since 1990, when the A's won their first eight. Their next road trip will go through Tampa Bay and Boston. ... The Angels, who finished five games behind Oakland last season, already are 5 1/2 games behind the A's. ... Angels 3B Alberto Callaspo was 0 for 3 in the leadoff spot before leaving in the eighth because of tightness in his right calf.