OAKLAND, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels are back in their familiar spot atop the AL West, a position they plan to hold on to this time.
Bobby Abreu hit a two-run homer, Scott Kazmir won for the third time in four starts and the surging Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Monday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.
"I think it means a lot, from the way we started and now the roll that we're on," Kazmir said. "It feels good to be back in first place. We want to stay there."
Erick Aybar added an RBI triple as the Angels improved to 8-1 since Kendry Morales broke his leg jumping on home plate in a celebration following his game-ending grand slam against Seattle on May 29.
The Angels sure have come together since then.
"We lost one of the best hitters in the lineup, a young guy who produces a lot. We had to leave that in the past," Abreu said. "Everybody's hitting and the pitchers are doing their jobs. We're playing together and the chemistry came back for the team."
Abreu's first-inning drive gave Los Angeles a quick lead and the Angels only built on it from there. Manager Mike Scioscia returned following a one-game absence for his daughter's high school graduation.
Howie Kendrick singled in a run as the Angels won their sixth straight in Oakland. They have outscored the A's 30-14 in those games.
Scioscia isn't one to get too excited about being in first place, not in early June.
"It has no bearing," he said. "It's way too early to consider standings. We need to keep bringing the things we've done to win games in this little stretch."
Kazmir (5-5) gave up a solo home run to Jake Fox with one out in the seventh, ending the pitcher's scoreless streak in Oakland at 20 innings dating to Aug. 12, 2008, while with Tampa Bay. The left-hander pounded the strike zone to work ahead in the count much of the game and improved to 9-3 lifetime against the A's.
Kazmir gave up four other hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out five and walked two.
"That's some of the best stuff we've seen from Kaz in a while," Scioscia said.
Brian Fuentes earned his eighth save in 11 opportunities with a 1-2-3 ninth, including consecutive called third strikes to end it.
The Angels are in a stretch with 14 road games in as many days, their longest trip since a 14-gamer during their World Series season of 2002. They've been impressive so far.
"When Kendry got hurt, everybody stepped up," Torii Hunter said.
Ben Sheets (2-5), the A's $10 million right-hander, lost his second straight start as the A's lost for the fifth time in seven games and dropped the opener of this key four-game series between division rivals. A dismal announced crowd of 10,071 turned out for this one.
Sheets is winless in his last six outings since beating Tampa Bay on May 8. Sheets struck out five and didn't walk a batter in six innings, allowing four runs – three earned – and six hits.
"Obviously I would have liked to have given up a couple fewer runs but I kept it close. Not close enough," Sheets said. "I never felt in trouble. I felt like I was in control of the game, which is good."
Ryan Sweeney doubled twice, singled and drove in a run for Oakland, which would like to get back on track during this tough stretch with 20 games in 20 days. They were coming off four straight one-run games, including a series loss to Minnesota in which they salvaged Sunday's series finale to avoid a sweep.
Eric Patterson replaced Rajai Davis in center field for Oakland in the top of the seventh after Davis' left hamstring tightened up following a fifth-inning triple. Davis was listed as day to day.
A's hitting coach Jim Skaalen was ejected in the sixth inning by home plate umpire Eric Cooper for arguing balls and strikes. It was Skaalen's second ejection with Oakland. He also got tossed May 25, 2009, against Seattle.
Notes: The Angels are 10-3 in their last 13 road games following a 2-10 stretch away from home. They are 9-2 in their last 11 at the Coliseum. Los Angeles hasn't lost a season series to the A's since 2003 (8-12). … A's SS Cliff Pennington got a day off and Adam Rosales started in his place. … Injured Oakland DH Eric Chavez (neck spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the DL May 21. … A's RHP Justin Duchscherer underwent season-ending surgery on his troublesome left hip.
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