ANAHEIM -- Seeking a series split in Anaheim on Thursday, A's lefty Brett Anderson stymied his opponents with a spontaneous mix of fastballs and breaking balls.
In turn, he watched his own teammates manufacture some rare run support -- more than the two or fewer he had received in seven of his previous 10 starts.
All of those positives -- and all of the optimism seemingly stemming from the previous day's closed-door meeting that addressed the need to focus on the game rather than the issues that have made for a rollercoaster week for the green and gold -- were nearly lost.
But they weren't. The A's walked away with a 4-3 victory over the Angels following a scare in the ninth, when right-hander Grant Balfour narrowed a four-run lead to one by surrendering a three-run homer to Mark Trumbo with two outs.
"Any time you give up the long ball, you're never going to be too happy, but especially when you've got runners on," Balfour said. "It should never get to that point. I've been pitching a lot better than that. Luckily enough, today we scored enough runs and it was only a three-run home run."
"It sounds crazy, but I'd rather have a homer than a walk," manager Bob Geren said. "His run, at that point, doesn't mean anything. It just makes it 4-3."
That's the way it would stay, much to the delight of Anderson, who not only picked up his first victory since April 24 in Seattle, but his first career win vs. the Angels. Prior to Thursday's contest, the lefty was 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts against them.
Anderson broke the habit by making good use of his curveball from the start, along with a steady supply of fastballs, to garner three perfect innings before giving up his first hit of the day to Erick Aybar with one out in the fourth.
"He threw all of his pitches for strikes," Trumbo said. "He threw a ton of breaking balls. You have to respect not just one pitch but three. He has that slider and the big curveball to go with his fastball, and that makes him tough to handle when he's putting everything where he wants it."
Anderson allowed just three hits through eight shutout innings, walking three, fanning four and inducing 11 ground-ball outs, including a pair of double-play balls. The young southpaw stranded four opponents on base, including runners on second and third with one out in the sixth.
"I made some pitches when I had to," Anderson said. "My stuff wasn't particularly better today than it's been on other days, but I mixed it up pretty well. I give a lot of credit to my defense behind me."
Among the defensive highlight makers was Conor Jackson, who received a start at first base on Thursday in place of a struggling Daric Barton. Trumbo popped a ball sky-high near the A's dugout, where Jackson lunged over the railing to make an impressive catch.
At the plate, the A's made sure early on that their recent woes -- a .214 average over their last eight games -- weren't going to make another impressive pitching performance go for naught. The club got hits from every member of its starting nine, including two each from David DeJesus, who went 8-for-16 in the series, and Cliff Pennington.
Hideki Matsui, who entered the contest with eight hits in his previous 45 at-bats, got things going in the second off Angels starter Joel Pineiro with a line-drive single to left. Suzuki's bunt single down the third-base line put runners on first and second for Mark Ellis, whose sacrifice bunt paved the way for LaRoche's RBI ground-ball out to third baseman Alberto Callaspo to make it 1-0.
Geren noted Matsui's smart baserunning with Callaspo charging in to field LaRoche's ball.
"He had a heckuva jump and a great read," Geren said. "You look at that run, it was so early in the game, but that could have been the difference in the game right there."
"It was key, in a sense, to get something started and help set the tone for the team," said Matsui through translator Roger Kahlon. "I know I'm not hitting well right now, but to come through in such a manner, it's a good feeling."
LaRoche, also struggling of late, brought in two more in the fourth on a double that scored Josh Willingham and Ellis after each reached base via singles. Pennington's ensuing RBI base hit made it 4-0.
"It's great to finally help the team win," LaRoche said. "A lot of our offense, me especially, hasn't done much at the plate, and the pitching, for the most part, has done an amazing job. To get some runs on the board and have Anderson go out there and do what he's capable of, it's a good win for us."
The win moved the A's to 24-27 on the season, and they head back to Oakland to begin a six-game homestand against the Orioles and Yankees beginning Friday. Bringing momentum home is big for this club, as the victory was only the second in the last nine days.
"It's been kind of crazy," Anderson said of events that occurred amid Brian Fuentes' public criticisms of Geren earlier in the week. "You don't expect something like that going into a series, but once you get in between the lines, all the stuff off the field is kind of thrown out the window. At that point, it's kind of a non-factor.
"We had a meeting, and it's behind us. It's good to get a win after that and go on and hopefully play like we did today from here on."