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A’s take series from Angels with Sunday win

The A’s took their first series win agains the Angels of 2015, making Sunday a happy Father’s Day for the packed house of fans.

A’s starter Scott Kazmir (W, 2.70 ERA, 6 H, 6 K) delivered 7-1/3 strong innings, throwing 112 pitches, 79 for strikes, and one earned, en route to his fourth win of the season.

Outfielder Sam Fuld, utilityman Ben Zobrist, and catcher Stephen Vogt took their turn stepping on home, with Oakland winning by a score of 3-2.

This story has been updated with post-game quotes and additional material from the A’s clubhouse.

The Angels took advantage of Tyler Clippard in the eighth, first baseman Albert Pujols smacking his 21st home run of the season, though the run was charged to Kazmir.

If not for the jack, which scored Angels leadoff hitter Jonny Giavotella, Kazmir would have recorded his fifth scoreless outing of the season, two of the previous four have gone down as wins.

Third baseman Brett Lawrie recorded two hits, the only multiple-hit performance of the day for Oakland, and was thrown out while stealing third in the second inning.

The play seemed destined for controversy for a time, third base umpire Greg Gibson initially ruling that Lawrie came off the bag, manager Bob Melvin asked the replay officials in New York to review the play.

Given multiple angles, there was little, if any, evidence that Lawrie did in fact come off the bag. But the replay officials, who are obligated to look at every element of the play to decide the outcome, saw third baseman David Freese tag Lawrie on the right shoulder.

Photos by Jeffery Bennett/SFBay

The ruling prompted outrage from the crowd, and momentary confusion considering the angles showed to fans and members of the media. Melvin, too, asked for an explanation, but quickly retreated to the A’s dugout after receiving one.

First baseman Ike Davis grounded out on the next play, recording the third out.

The A’s scored two crucial runs in the sixth inning, after Vogt advanced to third on a Zobrist single, Lawrie knocked him in with a single of his own.

After outfielder Josh Reddick lined out to second, Zobrist was sent across home plate when Davis creamed a pitch, sending it off the centerfield wall, caroming off the wall and back to the grass in front of the 400-foot marker.

Despite Kazmir’s efficient and spectacular outing, the A’s narrowly avoided disaster, allowing their opponent every opportunity to succeed.

Clippard was brought in during the eighth, and with Giavotella already at first and two down, allowed a towering blast to Pujols.

Freese singled, but Clippard retired shortstop Erick Aybar on three strikes.

It was Clippard’s third save of more than three outs this season, and the 30-year-old has been an instrumental member of Oakland’s bullpen.

For the most part, he’s been the only reliable pitcher in the pen. Scott Kazmir, on Clippard’s importance, said:

“He’s been great. … For the closer to come out, especially after 30 pitches the night before, to be able to get a five-out save. There’s not many people that can do that.”

Clippard actually threw 28 pitches Saturday night, and another 34 Sunday for 62 pitches in less than 24 hours — more like a long reliever than the typical closer.

Vogt added:

“To do what he did on back to back days for us is huge. It gives everybody a rest, picks us up and gives us a couple great wins. Close games, which obviously hasn’t been our forte this year.”

The A’s are averaging just under seven runs per game over the last eight games, and are 6-4 over the last 10. Clippard’s part has been overshadowed by a dominant stretch of starting pitching, recording four wins in eight tries, Evan Scribner picking another.

Oakland remains anchored by the best bullpen staff in baseball, though their bullpen has been a squall in the masts of the season. If not for Clippard, the entire relieving corps might have totally capsized the season.

Sunday, Clippard wasn’t going to pitch the ninth inning. That was the plan, anyway, but Melvin explained that Clippard had other ideas:

“When he came off the mound, he talked me in to putting him back out there. Give him a lot of credit, that’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Melvin doesn’t expect for something similar to happen the rest of the season. And the rest day on Monday should be well received for the closer.

The A’s notched their 31st win of the season, and sit 10 games below .500 on the season. They receive an off-day Monday, traveling to Texas for a three-game set against the Rangers, before flying back to Oakland for a 10-game homestand.

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