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08/28/09 2:20 AM ET
Sweeney fuels Cahill's gem in Anaheim
Outfielder's near-cycle backs righty as A's top Angels
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Thursday's opener of a four-game series between the Angels and A's got off to a late start as the result of a ceremony to honor Brian Downing and Chuck Finley as the newest members of the Halos' Hall of Fame. It was supposed to start at 7:25 p.m. PT, but it didn't get going until 20 about minutes after that. Once it did, rookie right-hander Trevor Cahill pitched like he had an appointment to keep. After walking the first two batters he faced, Cahill made quick work of the Angels on the way to a 2-0 victory. "You like to get into your routine and stick to it, but it's just one of those things you have to adjust to," said Cahill, who didn't walk another batter on the way to seven shutout innings of two-hit work. "Kind of like a rain delay." Backed by another big night at the plate from the resurgent Ryan Sweeney and solid work from relievers Michael Wuertz and Andrew Bailey, Cahill helped put the American League West leaders into a deep freeze on a hot and muggy night at Angel Stadium. After the aforementioned walks, to Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu, Cahill struck out Torii Hunter and picked Figgins off second base before retiring Vladimir Guerrero on a bouncer to second base -- the first of 12 ground-ball outs for Cahill. The key to the escape was the pickoff, on which Cahill kicked up his left leg as if he were going to the plate but spun toward the bag. Figgins was on the move and couldn't beat Cahill's throw to second baseman Mark Ellis. "That," Cahill said, "was huge." So was Sweeney's homer well into the bleachers beyond right-center field off Angels righty Ervin Santana with one out in the second inning. It was all the offense Oakland needed, but Sweeney also banged a stand-up triple to left before scoring on a Daric Barton single in the sixth. The home run came on an inside fastball clocked at 93 mph. "If he starts getting to that pitch," A's manager Bob Geren said, "he's could really be a special player." Sweeney, who fell a double short of the cycle, has been pretty special for the past three weeks, batting .328 with 10 extra-base hits over his past 18 games. "I'm just trying to drive balls in the gaps more and not just trying to get base hits," Sweeney said by way of explaining his recent hot streak. "Don't ask me why I wasn't doing that all year." Ask the Angels why Cahill was so tough on Thursday and they'll tell you that after the first, he simply didn't give them much to hit. "He had a good sinker and changeup, too," said Maicer Izturis. "The changeup had good downward movement, very good break. It was a tough pitch to hit tonight." Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave Cahill his props, too, but he was a tad peeved about the blown opportunity in the first. "Early on, he was having trouble getting in the zone. In that first inning, we let him off the hook," Scioscia said. "[But] he's got good action, a good sinker." Asked if it was the best he's seen Cahill, Geren offered a qualified yes. "After the first two hitters ... I though something was wrong with him," said the skipper. "But if you took the first two hitters out, yeah." Cahill, who has surrendered an Oakland-rookie record 25 home runs this year but hasn't allowed any in his past four starts, wasn't so sure about that. "I think I've had better control," he said, "but this is the best my two-seam fastball has been. It's hard to compare outings for me." Cahill only threw 98 pitches, and with the A's set to go to a six-man rotation next week, he'll have an extra day of rest before his next start. Geren, however, said lifting Cahill was a no-brainer; the rookie's back had tightened up earlier in the game. "I almost took him out after the sixth," Geren said. Wuertz picked up where Cahill left off, pitching a perfect eighth, and Bailey converted his 14th consecutive save opportunity by getting Guerrero on a bouncer to Ellis with Hunter on second base to end the game. "It's always fun playing the best teams, and the Angels are the best team in the division right now," Cahill said. "Any win is good, but to win the first game here, it's even better."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.