The Los Angeles Angels are basically playing with three center fielders at the same time, and they all respond to every flyball with a take-charge mentality. This time, it cost them dearly.
Left fielder Vernon Wells nearly collided with Peter Bourjos in the alley while they were chasing a slicing, leadoff drive in the 10th inning by switch-hitter Cliff Pennington.
The ball hit off Wells' glove for a triple as he slid to avoid the speedy Bourjos. Conor Jackson delivered the run with a groundout, and the Athletics went on to beat the Angels 2-1 on Wednesday.
Wells, a three-time Gold Glove winner, is playing left field for the first time on a regular basis after 12 years as a center fielder in Toronto. Bourjos is in his first full season in the majors after his promotion last August, a move that forced nine-time Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter to switch to right.
"It was just two aggressive guys with speed, and both of them can get to the ball. So something like that is bound to happen," Hunter said. "It's probably the first time that they've ever had a close call like that out there.
"It's difficult to make the call on a ball like that," Hunter said. "With a guy throwing 97 (mph) to a left-handed hitter, he's going to be a little late on his swing. And if you're in center field, you've got to know that the ball is going to tail back to left with a little sink to it. Peter's so fast, he got there early. I mean, speed is good, but sometimes you get to balls that nobody expects you to get to. You've just got to give them a little more time playing with each other."
Daric Barton was intentionally walked with one out, and Jackson delivered the run with a high chopper to shortstop.
Former Angels closer Brian Fuentes (1-2) was credited with the win, despite giving up the tying run in the bottom of the ninth after an error by third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. Brad Ziegler retired the side in order in the 10th for his first save of the season.
"They got a break to tie the game and we got a break to win the game," Athletics manager Bob Geren said.
Oakland's Tyson Ross scattered four hits over seven innings and induced three double-play grounders in his second start for the injured Dallas Braden. The right-hander, who turned 24 years old last Friday, threw 76 pitches in his fourth big league start and handed a 1-0 lead to the bullpen.
Grant Balfour pitched a perfect eighth and Fuentes (1-2) took over in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis reached on Kouzmanoff's fielding error, Mark Trumbo went in to run for him and Bobby Abreu doubled home the tying run on a 3-2 fastball.
"He's a good hitter in any situation," Fuentes said.
The blown save was Fuentes' second in eight attempts. The 35-year-old lefty is handling the closing chores in place of Andrew Bailey, who has yet to pitch this season because of a forearm strain that occurred during an exhibition game on March 14.
"When I signed, the plans initially were for me to come in and set up for Andrew," Fuentes said. "But things happened and he got the injury, so I was the first in line to step up and take over that role — just because I have the experience doing it. Sometimes you're incapable of doing it, but you don't forget how. And my confidence is still high. I believe that I can still close, and that's not going to change."
Fuentes, a four-time All-Star who posted four seasons with 30 or more saves after becoming a full-time closer with Colorado in mid-May 2005, led the majors with a career-best 48 in 2009 for the Angels — who traded him to Minnesota last August.
"I enjoyed my time in Anaheim," said Fuentes, who followed Francisco Rodriguez as the team's regular closer after K-Rod set an Angels record with a major league-leading 62 saves in 2008. "I got booed quite a bit here, which was kind of weird, and I don't really know why.
"I know that coming in here after Frankie was maybe part of it, just because they were used to him and he was so good here. So maybe there was just no margin for error, I guess. It never really bothered me that much, but it was just a little different getting booed on both sides of the coin. But there was definitely more good than bad here," he said.
Dan Haren got a no-decision despite giving up an unearned run and three hits over seven innings with five strikeouts and two walks. The three-time All-Star, who won 44 games during his three seasons with the Athletics, remained 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five career starts against Oakland. He lowered his season ERA to 1.23, second in the AL behind teammate Jered Weaver's 0.99 mark.
"I was all over the place in the beginning and falling behind in too many counts, trying to be careful," Haren said. "But the last couple of innings was as good as I've felt all year."
Oakland scored its first run in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. Landon Powell walked on a full count, Kouzmanoff reached on a fielding error by first baseman Howie Kendrick, David DeJesus got hit on the foot with an 0-2 pitch and Barton hit a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: After the game, the Angels optioned RHP Matt Palmer to Triple-A Salt Lake in anticipation of activating LHP Scott Downs from the 15-day DL on Friday. ... Weaver will make his next start on Sunday with an extra day's rest. He finished April 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA, after beating Kansas City on March 31 with 6 1-3 scoreless innings for the first of his six straight wins.