Part-timer Wells plays big part in big win

Part-timer Wells plays big part in big win

Part-timer Wells plays big part in big win
OAKLAND -- It's amazing how $21 million can at times seem so unassuming. But that's what Vernon Wells has been for the latter part of this season, while relegated to a bench role and disappearing into the background despite his large contract.

Somewhere along the way, Wells came to grips with this new lifestyle. He had to.

"It was difficult at first, but you live for today," he said. "You can't really worry about what's going to take place after that. It's the best way to go through life, just to enjoy the moment, and when you get opportunities, take full advantage of them."

Wells did that in a big way on Monday, getting a rare start and reaching base four times as the Angels' offense jumped on Tommy Milone early and cruised to an 8-3 win at the Coliseum, giving them 10 victories over their last 13 games, halting the A's winning streak at nine and moving up ever so slightly in the American League Wild Card standings.

They're now 4 1/2 games back of the first-place A's, 3 1/2 back of the second-place Orioles, two back of the third-place Rays and a half-game back of the fourth-place Tigers, with 27 to go.

"If we can finish the way we've been playing the last couple games, we'll have a lot better chance to get where we want to go," said Angels starter C.J. Wilson, who got the win after giving up two runs in a five-inning, 89-pitch outing. "We have a lot of room to make up. There's no hiding that. We have a long way to go. But anything's possible."

If the Angels hope to shore up that gap, they'll need contributions from everyone, including an outfielder who's owed $21 million each season through 2014.

With a lefty starter on the mound, and the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales needing a break after starting five of the last six games for an ailing Albert Pujols at first base, Wells played left field and led an offense that scored five runs before Milone could even record a 10th out. He got his team on the board with an RBI single in the second, homered to lead off the third and, for only the third time in 192 games with the Angels, drew two walks.

"That's a feat," Wells said, just before bursting out in laughter.

Little has been funny about the last two years for Wells, though. He finished 2011 with the lowest batting average and on-base percentage among Major League qualifiers, started off slowly in 2012, watched as the offense thrived while he missed two months with thumb surgery and saw his importance dropped significantly upon returning.

Monday was only his 15th start in 36 games since coming off the disabled list.

This new role might have led to a whole new perspective.

"When I'm having fun playing the game, things come a whole lot easier than when you're thinking about what your numbers are and what the struggles have been," said Wells, who has four homers and 12 RBIs over his last 16 games. "That kind of plays back to just living in the moment. You can't go back and change what's taken place over the last few years, but we can make this a memorable September. That's my focus."

The A's came in with the second-best rotation ERA in the AL, Milone being a big part of that by posting a 3.73 ERA on the year and one earned run in his last 14 innings. But the Angels, tied with the A's for most runs per game in the second half, knocked out the rookie after a career-low three-plus innings.

"From the first inning on, I didn't feel comfortable and was struggling to keep the ball low," Milone said. "I forced myself to throw strikes, and when I do that I leave it up in the zone."

Joining Wells, Torii Hunter hit a solo homer and drove in two runs, Chris Iannetta finished a triple short of the cycle with three RBIs, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick each notched a couple of singles and the Angels totaled 14 hits.

Wilson rolled through the first three innings, then gave up an RBI single to Josh Reddick in the fourth and a homer to Josh Donaldson to lead off the fifth. Later that frame, the A's loaded the bases with two outs, but Reddick -- at that point representing the go-ahead run -- popped out to second base to end the A's biggest threat of the afternoon.

Then, with a two-run homer from Iannetta and a sac fly from Hunter, the Angels separated themselves the next half-inning.

"We came in and got a game on our terms and held the lead," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's what we need."

The Angels find themselves in this uphill climb because of their underachieving rotation, which posted a 5.71 ERA during a 42-game stretch that began July 3 and saw the Angels go 17-25. The starters have been better lately, though, with a combined 3.47 ERA over the last 13 games.

They've at least given them a fighting chance.

"I hate to say this phrase because it always makes me laugh, but: 'That's the way baseball go,' " Wilson said, channeling his inner Ron Washington when asked why the staff has been so streaky. "You battle all year long. Sometimes you're pitching through nagging stuff. Sometimes you're just having bad luck or whatever. And sometimes it comes in bunches. Good pitching is contagious."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.