ANAHEIM -- In the unofficial start of second half of the season, the A's offense had as much punch as Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes' left sore wrist.
Cespedes, a late scratch with the ailment after taking batting practice, could only watch helplessly as the A's could muster but four hits through seven innings and get just two runners to second base in that span in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels Friday night, the opener of a three-game series.
The Angels hit three solo home runs, one each by Albert Pujols, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout, and Los Angeles starter Jered Weaver struck out a season-high eight batters as he ran his scoreless streak against the A's to 24 2/3 innings with 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
The A's (56-40) emerged from the All-Star break in first place by themselves for the first time since 1990, and with Texas losing to Baltimore earlier in the night, the A's maintained a two-game lead over the Rangers in the American League West, though the Angels closed to within 10 games.
Starting pitching report
A.J. Griffin labored, early and often. The right-hander gave up three solo home runs, becoming the first A's pitcher to surrender three homers in Anaheim since Mark Mulder on Sept. 12, 2002, and allowed four runs and six hits while walking one and striking out three in five innings. Griffin took the loss to fall to 8-7. He has allowed 21 home runs, tied for third-most in the American League, and 16 of the homers have been solo shots, with 15 coming on the road.
Heralded rookie Sonny Gray replaced Griffin to start the sixth and worked two-plus scoreless innings, striking out three, walking one, getting three batters to ground out to second base before Albert Pujols singled…loudly…to right-center to lead off the eighth, and Gray's night was done. Might he be the one to be sent down to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Dan Straily's start Saturday night? Jerry Blevins' struggles, meanwhile, continued as he gave up a single to Josh Hamilton, the only batter he faced. The first batters he's faced in his last seven games now are 5 for their 5 with a walk and a hit by pitch. Pat Neshek came in to clean up the mess.
At the plate
The A's finished with seven hits, and Eric Sogard was the only one with two hits. He doubled in the third inning. The A's left nine runners on base. Oakland got on the board in the ninth when Brandon Moss singled and went to second on right fielder Josh Hamilton's error and Moss ran through third-base coach Mike Gallego's stop sign to score on Chris Young's double. Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was just as surprised as Gallego that Moss kept going so his double-clutched throw was late. Moss (two), Young (three) and Seth Smith (three) combined to strike out eight times as the No.s six, seven and eight hitters.
In the field
The A's seemed to have something going in the third, when they were only down 1-0 and had runners at first and second with two out. Josh Donaldson hit a seed down the third-base line but Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo was able to smother the ball. He scrambled to his feet and it became a foot race to the bag. Callaspo dive head first, his glove reaching the base just before Eric Sogard slid in. At least, that's what umpire Ron Kulpa saw in calling Sogard out and ending the threat.
The Angels announced a crowd of 43,515, their fourth sellout of the season. Oh, and it was also fireworks night.
Tweet o' da game
Shocked. Not like he swung the bat a lot this week -- @DaleTafoya, on Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes being a late scratch with what the A's described as "left wrist soreness."
Dan Straily (6-2, 4.28 ERA) will be called up from triple-A Sacramento in time to start the second game of the three-game set in Anaheim. It will be his fifth stint with the A's this season and he is 5-0 with a 2.83 ERA in his last nine starts. The rookie right-hander is 1-0 with a 7.88 ERA in three career starts against the Angels, including starting the 19-inning affair on April 29. C.J. Wilson (9-6, 3.37) will start for the Angels. The left-hander is 8-7 with five saves and a 3.65 ERA in 43 career appearances against the A's.