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OAK@LAA: Hunter's double gives the Halos a late lead

ANAHEIM -- Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis are cut from the same cloth. Superb athletes who lived for football as kids growing up in the deep South, they've carved out good livings hitting, catching and throwing baseballs in a profession that can be humbling to even the very best.

Then there are nights like Monday when the baseball gods smile, everything falls into place and this very difficult and demanding game is pure joy.

Hunter and Mathis delivered the knockout blows and the defensive play of the night in a 4-1 victory over the Athletics that came late, after Jered Weaver found stiff resistance from Oakland's unheralded Josh Outman.

The A's lefty dealt on even terms with the Angels' ace before the game went to the bullpens for a decision that was rendered in the eighth inning.

The Angels prevailed when Hunter doubled home one run and Mathis singled home two more, handing a victory to Scott Downs (2-1) with Jordan Walden bringing the premium gas for his ninth save with a perfect ninth inning.

"I was probably trying to do a little too much," Hunter said of a slump that is in his rearview mirror with a pair of doubles giving him seven hits in his past 15 at-bats. "I just tried to step up my game. That's why you have elite hitters; they're trying to step up. That's the only way I know how to play -- hard."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has seen Hunter shorten his swing and use the whole field rather than trying to pull the ball.

"He drove both those balls tonight to the right side of the field," Scioscia said, "and that's a good sign for Torii. Jeff has struggled overall, but he did a good job cutting down his swing and got a big hit for us."

Mathis, an elite receiver, has been known to tie himself in knots trying to do too much at the plate. With relaxed, compact swings and plate discipline, Mathis lifted his average to .202 with his two hits.

Taking over for Outman to start the eighth, former Angels closer Brian Fuentes walked Erick Aybar and induced Bobby Abreu to hit into a forceout. In came Michael Wuertz to face Hunter, who hammered a drive off the wall in right-center to score Abreu after he'd stolen second.

After an intentional walk and a forceout on a ball lashed by Mark Trumbo, Mathis' single to left cashed in two runs that supplied a comfortable cushion for Walden.

Fuentes fell to 1-7 with the loss, which pushed the Athletics' losing streak to six games.

"Weaver's tough, and he did have his pitch count up early," A's manager Bob Geren said. "But he competed, and we had our chances. Both pitchers pitched well, both teams had limited opportunities -- and when they did, [Hunter] busted one in the gap, and that was the difference."

Weaver, who had lost four straight decisions after winning his first six starts, yielded just one earned run across seven innings on six hits and three walks. He struck out five.

"Pitchers are going to go through slumps just like hitters," Weaver said. "It's nothing to hang your head about.

"I got off to too good a start, and expectations were too high. I guess I'm back to being a normal pitcher. I'm going to go out and battle and keep our team in the game."

The last three A's faced by Weaver stroked singles, but Hunter and Mathis collaborated to take him out of the seventh unscathed.

Showing why he's a nine-time Gold Glove winner, Hunter charged Coco Crisp's sharp single and unleashed a missile home that Mathis handled, applying the tag on Andy LaRoche. LaRoche and Cliff Pennington had singled ahead of Crisp with two outs.

"Playing in center field all those years, I didn't realize how much easier the throw is from right," Hunter said. "You don't have to worry about the mound getting in the way. You can just cut it loose. It was low, to allow the cutoff man to take if he needed to. It didn't look like he [LaRoche] was going to go at first. I was in on Coco and got to it fast, but the ball took a little bad hop and I scooped it and got rid of it."

When Mathis handled the bullet and put the tag on LaRoche's hip, the deed was done.

"That was a heck of a play, by Torii and Jeff," Scioscia said. "Once Torii got his balance, I think he felt very good that time was on our side. He wanted to give Jeff a chance to block the plate, and he beat the man by a solid stop."

The Angels struck quickly against Outman, who was making his first Major League appearance since June 19, 2009, at San Diego -- an outing that was followed by Tommy John surgery 11 days later.

Maicer Izturis walked leading off the game, took second on Aybar's bunt and scored when Abreu stroked a single to center. Outman found his rhythm after walking Hunter, and managed to keep the Angels under control through seven innings.

The Athletics drew even in the third when Crisp doubled, Weaver walked two hitters, and Hideki Matsui lifted a sacrifice fly to center. Weaver controlled the damage by retiring Conor Jackson on another fly ball to Peter Bourjos.

The A's were riding high when they swept the Angels in Oakland May 16-17, but they have lost all six in the aftermath -- two to Minnesota, an Interleague series sweep by the Giants and now the first in a four-game series against the Angels.

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