A's close the deal against K-Rod
Ziegler allows first MLB homer, then mates deliver walk-off win
OAKLAND -- No matter where they sit in the American League West standings, you can usually count on the A's and Angels to provide drama whenever they square off.
They've had all manner of crazy endings, including walk-off homers, errors, bunts and brain cramps.
But the rival teams took it to extremes on Wednesday, and what was left of the announced crowd of 20,102 at McAfee Coliseum at the end was rewarded handsomely for hanging around.
"That was a real good game for the fans," said A's starter Greg Smith, who was long gone by the time the real fun unfolded.
In the top of the ninth, rookie A's closer Brad Ziegler gave up a home run for the first time since he was a starter at Double-A Midland in 2006. Angels slugger Mark Teixeira's two-run rope turned Oakland's one-run lead into a one-run deficit and handed Ziegler his first blown save in 10 career chances.
The bottom of the frame featured the most prolific single-season closer in history, and he couldn't get it done, either.
Francisco Rodriguez, who broke Bobby Thigpen's 1990 record of 57 saves with No. 58 on Saturday, made the second of two Angels errors in the inning to give the A's a crazy 3-2 victory in the second game of a three-game set.
It was K-Rod, you might recall, who allowed the A's to win a memorable 2005 game here when his swipe at a return throw from the catcher whiffed, allowing Jason Kendall to dash home from third.
"It was a weird game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "Two guys who are almost perfect, and they both get blown saves."
Thanks to some heady play by two other Oakland rookies, though, Ziegler also got a win out of Wednesday's wackiness.
Daric Barton opened the A's half of the ninth with a single to center and alertly hustled to second when center fielder Gary Matthews Jr.'s throw into the infield dribbled past the mound. Rodriguez then walked Jack Hannahan, and after being told not to bunt into the spokes of the Angels' "wheel" defense, Cliff Pennington took a strike before chopping the next pitch high off the dirt in front of home plate.
Rodriguez fired his throw to first base up the line and into the Angels bullpen, allowing Barton and Hannahan to score.
"Throw it on the bag -- that's your job there," K-Rod said, having blown his seventh save of the season. "That ball was way down the line. He [second baseman Sean Rodriguez] couldn't touch it. You can't stop that."
"I was just trying to hit the ball on the ground somewhere," Pennington said. "Fortunately I got a good bounce."
"It was a good call on our part" not to have Pennington bunt, said Barton. "Luckily he hit it high enough to where Rodriguez had to rush."
Until Teixeira struck late, it looked as if Smith finally would be the beneficiary of a rush of good fortune.
Rookie Aaron Cunningham's second double of the night scored pinch-runner Bobby Crosby in the bottom of the fifth inning and gave a 1-0 lead to Smith, who scattered four hits and a walk over six shutout innings before perfect innings by righty setup men Huston Street and Joey Devine.
The end of the game "shouldn't overshadow what Greg Smith did," Geren said of his young lefty, who has received one or zero runs of support in 18 of his 30 starts. "That was his best outing in quite a while."
But Teixeira, who also doubled twice, killed what would have been Smith's eighth win of the year when he followed Garret Anderson's leadoff single in the ninth with a line drive over the wall in right.
"It wasn't where I wanted to throw it, that's for sure," Ziegler said. "But at the same time, it wasn't a strike. It was low ... he's a big-time hitter."
But as has often been the case over the years, the A's battled back to get a win that, while perhaps not quite in the "big-time" category given the AL West standings, seemed to feel awfully good to the A's.
"We've played probably our best games against Anaheim," Barton said. "And there's no place better to win than versus K-Rod in the bottom of the ninth."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.