ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Joe Saunders didn't have to be perfect to outpitch Dallas Braden. A four-hit shutout was just fine.
Saunders posted his second career shutout and third complete game in 103 big league starts, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-0 victory over the AL West-rival Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
Braden, who pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history Sunday against Tampa Bay, matched zeros with Saunders for five innings before Kendry Morales hit an RBI single in the sixth and Hideki Matsui followed with a three-run homer.
"It was right over the plate, and he Godzilla-ed it right out of the ballpark," said Braden, who became the first pitcher to follow a perfect game with a complete game since Cleveland's Len Barker in 1981. "I felt like I almost told him it was coming, and he leaned on it. They see a guy like me and they know what I've got. It's not like we don't see each other often."
Braden gave up a two-out double in the first by Bobby Abreu, ending his bid to join Johnny Vander Meer as the only major league pitchers to throw back-to-back no-hitters. Vander Meer accomplished the feat in June 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds against the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers.
When asked how many times he heard Vander Meer's name since Mother's Day, Braden said: "Zero. I'll be totally honest. I mean, no disrespect. Is that the guy who threw them both back-to-back? Oh. So I'll retract that. Yeah, I've heard it all week. I don't know that you even aim for that."
Braden went the distance again for his second complete game after 52 consecutive starts without one — one more than Todd Van Poppel's previous Oakland record for the longest drought to begin a career. But he couldn't match Saunders (2-5) in a game that lasted 2 hours, 5 minutes.
"He pitched well, but their guy obviously pitched better," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "Saunders was really controlling the outside corner with his two-seam fastball and his changeup. He didn't give us much to hit. There was a lot of soft contact and a lot of balls off the end of the bat."
Saunders threw 109 pitches, the same total Braden threw in his perfecto against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Saunders' previous shutout was on May 9, 2009, at Angel Stadium against eventual AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, who entered that game 6-0 with an ERA under 1.00 and took the loss as the Angels' lefty pitched a five-hitter for a 1-0 victory over Kansas City.
"You don't really get hyped up because of who's pitching against you," Saunders said. "You just tell yourself to do what you can do — stay within yourself, throw as many strikes as you can, put the hitters on the defensive, throw up some zeros and hope your team can scratch out a run."
Saunders struck out six, walked two and stranded three runners in scoring position after going 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA over his previous four starts.
"He changed speeds and pitched to both sides of the plate and he executed all of his pitches," said Oakland designated hitter John Donaldson, who had a double and a single in three at-bats. "It looked like he was getting a lot of guys on changeups and getting them to hit weak ground balls. That was one of his better pitches tonight."
Braden (4-3) gave up seven hits, struck out five and walked one. Abreu's hit ended a string of 29 consecutive batters retired by the left-hander — tying the Oakland record set by Catfish Hunter, who pitched a perfect game in 1968 against Minnesota.
Erick Aybar led off the sixth with a bunt single and scored when Morales lined a first-pitch breaking ball to left field to break the scoreless tie.
"I didn't make the pitch I needed to make to get the boys back in the dugout," said Braden, who had a whirlwind four days in the media spotlight that included his reading of the Top Ten List on David Letterman's show. "You'll take those memories forever with you. But the one positive I'm OK with was that I didn't allow that to play a part in my focus and my preparation for today."
NOTES: In Hunter's first start after his perfect game, he gave up three homers in the first inning at Minnesota — including one by leadoff hitter Rod Carew. ... In Braden's outing before his perfect game, a 4-2 loss against Texas, he gave up back-to-back singles by Michael Young and Josh Hamilton before coming out.
(This version DELETES final 2 grafs pvs with INCORRECT info on pitchers following no-hitters)