Ellis sets record in win over Angels
Hits 17th homer to help Blanton cruise to 12th victory
ANAHEIM -- Mark Ellis set one franchise record at the plate Wednesday and extended another club mark on the field.
That, and Joe Blanton's brilliance after a rocky first inning, helped the A's stave off a sweep at the hands of their hosts with a 6-2 victory in the finale of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
Ellis wiped out a two-run deficit with a three-run homer in the fourth inning, his 17th of the year, to set a franchise record for homers in a season by a second baseman. Davey Lopes hit 16 homers for Oakland in 1983, and Jimmy Dykes hit 16 for the Philadelphia A's in 1921.
"It feels good. It's a pretty storied organization. It's a neat feeling," said Ellis, who had been tied with Lopes and Dykes since Aug. 13. "I hadn't hit a home run in a while, so it felt good to put the head on the ball. And it's something we needed today."
It ended up being all Blanton needed, and he was most appreciative.
"It wasn't like just a home run in a blowout," said Blanton, who gave up two runs on three hits in the first inning before handcuffing the Halos for the next seven. "It was a big three-run homer to take the lead. ... That probably makes it even more special."
What Ellis is doing on defense is special, too. He extended his club record for a second baseman by playing his 99th consecutive errorless game.
Asked which record means more to him, Ellis, who also singled in a run and now has career highs in home runs and RBIs (60), seemed torn before settling on the defensive mark.
"I like to hit. I like to be productive. I like to get RBIs and score runs," he said. "[But] defense is why I'm here in the big leagues, so I take more pride in that."
A's manager Bob Geren, while duly respectful of Ellis' offensive output, wasted no time in making it clear that he thinks Ellis' glove work is impressive.
"I'd always give the edge to a middle infielder setting records defensively," said the skipper. "He should have won the Gold Glove last year, and he definitely should win it this year."
That could prove difficult, because Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco hasn't made an error all year, and if he stays flawless he'll break the all-time single-season record he set in 2006 for fielding percentage (.997) by a second baseman.
Told that, Geren became as passionate and animated about a single topic as he's been all year. Launching into a lengthy diatribe against the value of fielding percentage, he rattled off the many other variables -- handling throws from the catcher, making a good turn on the double play, throwing to the right base on relays, handling over-the-shoulder catches, getting to balls in four territory, etc. -- that should be taken into account in Gold Glove voting.
"I think [fielding percentage] is one of the weakest stats there is for evaluating defensive players, to be honest," Geren said, perhaps forgetting that Ellis' 2006 record is trumpeted on the cover of the team's 2007 media guide.
The Angels jumped out in front when Blanton gave up an RBI single to Garret Anderson and a sacrifice fly to Maicer Izturis in the first. But Oakland's big-boned righty settled in and cruised through the next seven innings before taking a seat after a perfect eighth.
The difference between the first inning and the next seven?
"I quit giving up hits," Blanton cracked.
Not quite. The Angels picked up a single in the second, third and seventh, but Blanton, relying on a particularly effective slider, faced the minimum 15 batters over his final five frames with the help of two double plays.
"He was so good," Ellis said of Blanton. "He just attacks the zone. He's aggressive. He's so much fun to play behind. He was awesome."
Added Geren: "I thought he really located the ball perfectly. He kept all his pitches down, and he didn't really labor all day."
Blanton, who is 3-0 in four starts against the Halos this year, finished with a line of six hits, one walk and three strikeouts on 99 pitches. His fourth win in his past five decisions moved his record on the year to 12-9 with a 3.81 ERA.
"He's always been tough on us, especially in close games," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As the game went on, he gained command of his breaking stuff, changed speeds, and pitched a pretty good game."
Angels starter Joe Saunders (7-3) opened the fourth by walking Marco Scutaro and gave up a one-out single to Jack Cust before Ellis unloaded his record-breaker. It was Ellis' second homer in 10 career at-bats off Saunders.
"The more I face him, I'll figure him out a little bit," Saunders said. "He's obviously figured me out."
Shortstop Donnie Murphy, who was activated from the disabled list Monday, homered ahead of Ellis' RBI single in the seventh, then added an RBI single in the eighth to give him a career-high three hits in his first start off the DL.
Designated hitter Mike Piazza, who after the game was still trying to dole out the cupcakes his wife sent for his 39th birthday Tuesday, also had a big game. He closed out his season of wreckage at Angel Stadium by going 2-for-5, which actually lowered his batting average in 10 games here to .512 (22-for-43) with four homers, five doubles, 10 RBIs and a .907 slugging percentage.
"It was a good win," Geren said. "Now we get out of here and have a nice day off."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.