Jeff Samardzija has waited for another chance to pitch in the playoffs, and he is enjoying every part of being in a pennant race again.
He’s doing his part to extend Oakland’s season into October, too.
Samardzija tossed seven strong innings and received some rare run support, and the Athletics kept hold of the top AL wild-card spot by beating the AL West champion Los Angeles Angels 8-4 Monday night.
The A’s moved one game ahead of Kansas City for the first wild card.
“This last month’s been fun for me. It’s a new situation for me, and something I’ve been asking for for a long time,” Samardzija said. “I got in this situation and I want to take advantage of it. Opportunities aren’t guaranteed and they don’t come around too often, so you don’t want to waste them.”
Geovany Soto hit a two-run single to highlight a six-run first inning as the A’s chased C.J. Wilson after just two outs for the second-shortest start of his career. Stephen Vogt added a two-run single in the seventh.
Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer in the eighth for Los Angeles, giving him 1,602 RBIs for 33rd on the career list.
Samardzija (5-5) beat the Angels for the first time in three career starts and won for the first time in five starts since a victory at Houston on Aug. 25.
Samardzija struck out three and didn’t walk a batter while working at least seven innings for the sixth straight start.
“He’s been terrific, and really emotional,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You get that kind of lift when you play behind him knowing he’s so into it.”
When Samardzija has pitched this year, his teams – the Cubs and A’s – have been shut out six times and held to one run or fewer 10 times.
The early run support sure helped this time. Some snazzy defense, too.
Josh Donaldson stopped a sharp grounder by Chris Iannetta that flipped up off his glove, and the All-Star third baseman made a barehanded catch and threw to first to end the seventh. Samardzija walked off shaking his head in disbelief.
“I think he was bored and wanted to make things interesting,” Samardzija said.
Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia made it clear before the game that he wants his team to treat the remaining games with the same urgency even though the Angels clinched their first division title since 2009 last week.
“I think it’s important to play and keep your edge,” he said. “Naturally, these games have bearing on all the teams.”
Among his four free passes, Wilson (13-10) allowed bases-loaded walks to Derek Norris and Nate Freiman in the first that put the A’s ahead. Soto then singled up the middle to make it 4-1.
“If you’re missing your spots all over the place, it’s a mechanical thing,” Wilson said.
Before Soto’s single, Oakland was hitless in 18 plate appearances with the bases loaded since Sept. 9.
Wilson, the first of three straight southpaws scheduled to start in this series, had his three-start winning streak snapped. His only shorter start was one-third of an inning on May 11, 2012, at Texas.
“That’s a rough one for C.J.,” Scioscia said. “We’ve looked at C.J. from every angle possible. He’s prepared, he knows what he’s trying to do, he has terrific stuff. At times it works and he’s on top of the game. Sometimes the game’s on top of him and we saw that tonight.”
Oakland scored eight or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since July 23-24 against Houston.
The A’s hold a 9-8 lead in the season series, dropping the Angels to 1-6 at the Coliseum.
Angels: OF Josh Hamilton hit off a tee as he tries to work his way back from pain in his upper body that sidelined him for the 17th time in 18 games. … 2B Howie Kendrick was rested as a precaution a day after he was pulled late in the game with minor tightness in his hamstring. … RHP Matt Shoemaker, making progress in his recovery from a strained left oblique, played light catch and is still giving Scioscia enough “encouraging” signs that he could make the postseason roster.
Athletics: SS Jed Lowrie, who left Sunday’s game after four innings with a bruised left foot, and C Derek Norris (shoulder) returned to the lineup, though Norris was the DH after requiring an injection.
Angels: LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.24 ERA) makes his third start and 10th appearance, carrying a scoreless stretch of 10 1-3 innings over his last five outings. LeBlanc has faced the A’s twice in relief this year.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray (13-9, 3.28) looks to snap a five-start winless stretch with what would be just his second victory in 11 starts since a 5-0 July that earned him AL pitcher of the month honors.