OAKLAND, Calif. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia had glowing praise for Torii Hunter's timely hitting and Mike Napoli's incredible tear at the plate.
If Scioscia was slightly less effusive about Joe Saunders' pitching, it's only because Los Angeles has grown to expect steady excellence from the last ace standing in its starting rotation.Hunter drove in three runs, Saunders pitched six-hit ball into the seventh inning and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2 Monday night.Napoli contributed a career-high four hits and two RBIs as the designated hitter in Los Angeles' fifth win in seven games. The catcher has reached base 13 times in his last 14 plate appearances.Napoli's roll is the most eye-catching feature of the Angels' surge, but Saunders' effort is just as important to Scioscia. Los Angeles got another strong start and seven strikeouts from Saunders (4-1), who's carrying an injury-plagued staff along with Jered Weaver -- and for once, Los Angeles' beleaguered bullpen also was nearly flawless."That was the best stuff Joe has had so far this season," Scioscia said. "He did everything you would expect the guy to do. If our starters can get us to a point, we can get the roles where they need to be in the bullpen. We feel we have the potential to do this."With starters John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar and Dustin Moseley all on the disabled list, Saunders knows his starts are particularly valuable. He has responded with his second straight outstanding start to a season, following up last year's 6-0 mark with at least five solid innings in every start this spring."I knew I needed to go out there and throw some innings," Saunders said. "When some guys go down, other guys need to step up. When they come back, we're going to play more consistent, better baseball."After Jose Arredondo relieved Saunders with three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings, Brian Fuentes pitched the ninth for his sixth save in eight chances.The California clubs met for the first time since April 8, when Nick Adenhart pitched six scoreless innings against the A's. The rookie right-hander was killed in a car accident hours later.Kurt Suzuki hit a solo homer in the seventh for the weary A's, who opened a nine-game homestand with their fourth loss in six games before a sparse crowd of 10,397.Oakland looked understandably exhausted after its 15-inning loss at Seattle on Sunday. While the A's dragged through that 305-minute defeat, the Angels' series finale at Yankee Stadium was rained out Sunday, keeping them sharper for the final stop on their eight-game road trip."Every time we face [Saunders], he's getting better," Oakland's Travis Buck said. "He's definitely a great pitcher."A's manager Bob Geren had a pregame meeting with his young starting pitchers to demand longer, better efforts, but Brett Anderson (0-3) didn't make it out of the fifth inning. Still looking for his first win after five major league starts, the U.S. Olympian yielded nine hits and didn't strike out a batter.Los Angeles loaded the bases in the third on two infield singles and a walk before Hunter singled home two runs. Hunter and Napoli both added run-scoring hits in the fifth, with Napoli chasing Anderson on his second double.Anderson is fighting through a blister, but didn't use it as an excuse."It sounds weird, but it looks way better," Anderson said. "Hopefully I broke through all the bad skin that was on top, and it's kind of back to the baby skin. If I can harden that up, I should be 100 percent."The A's recalled relievers Jerry Blevins and Sean Gallagher from Triple-A Sacramento to put a couple of fresh arms in a beleaguered bullpen. Gallagher relieved Anderson and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.After Jason Giambi slowed his 7-for-50 skid with a sixth-inning single, the A's finally scored when Saunders balked with the bases loaded before retiring Buck on the next pitch. Suzuki, the only Oakland regular who began the night hitting better than .280, chased Saunders with a two-out homer to left.Oakland's Matt Holliday went 0 for 4, extending his skid to 6 for 39, while Jack Cust struck out four times.
Los Angeles activated LHP Darren Oliver from the 15-day disabled list. The 38-year-old reliever had been out since April 22 with a strained left triceps muscle. ... The Angels also optioned RHP Kevin Jepsen to Triple-A Salt Lake.