OAKLAND, California — A few well-placed balls and a couple of unfortunate miscues were enough to momentarily derail the Los Angeles Angels.
Hector Santiago was pitching well until he took a ball off the pinkie of his pitching hand. Kole Calhoun hit the ball hard to places normally left unintended that turned into outs, including one huge double play.
Jason Grilli, who has been effective out of the bullpen, gave up two runs in the sixth inning that led to the Angels dropping the opener, 5-3 to the Oakland Athletics, of an important three-game series between the top two contenders in the AL West.
"Line drives are going to be caught and bloopers are going to fall in," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There were a lot of good things on the field and at the same time we didn't get it done."
Grilli (1-2) took over because Santiago, who allowed two runs — one earned — on seven hits in five innings, lost the feel on his offspeed pitches as a result of Craig Gentry's ball that clipped him en route to an out.
"It's a little sore but I am good to go," Santiago said. "It didn't get me solid. I didn't want to go at 50 percent. This is too important of a series."
Erick Aybar's wild throw into the A's dugout allowed the tying run to score in the fifth. He was looking to double up Josh Donaldson but wasn't able to get enough on the throw thanks to a hard slide from Gentry.
"Alberto got jammed and just hit it enough to get through," Scioscia said. "Fuld got a fastball and he split the gap. Jason has been very good and he'll continue to get the ball."
Calhoun, throw out to open the game on a ball fielded by the second baseman in shallow right field, lined into a double play to end the fifth after the Angels put runners on second and third.
"There are so many different shifts now and every team plays you differently," Calhoun said. "I just hit it right at them and it worked out to their advantage. I couldn't lay it out any better."
The Angels, owners of the best record in the majors, didn't get much rest before the game. They completed a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox late Thursday, then took a red-eye flight to California. Players and coaches didn't make it to their hotel in San Francisco until 4 a.m. Friday.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards underwent surgery to repair the torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Scioscia said that Richards' surgery "went as expected." He added that the timetable for Richards' recovery remains six to nine months.
Angels: LHP C.J. Wilson (10-8) was 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA in five starts against the A's last season . . . IF Gordon Beckham, acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, is expected to join the team on Saturday.
Athletics: LHP Jon Lester (13-8) looks to bounce back from his first loss in an Oakland uniform and his first defeat since June 7 while with Boston.
The Angels dropped their fourth straight game in Oakland. They were swept between May 30-June 1 and outscored, 26-11.
"We're a better team now," Scioscia said. "We haven't got it done up here yet this season but that's a good club. We'll be ready to go tomorrow."
Calhoun agreed. "This is a big series," he said. "We'll be ready to come back out tomorrow."