Cantu is batting .405 (13-for-37) with four homers and 13 RBIs over his last nine games. He is 5-for-9 with a pair of homers and seven RBIs in helping Tampa Bay capture the first two games of this series.
The Devil Rays entered this series having dropped 14 of their previous 18 home meetings with the Angels. However, they are in position for the sweep after Cantu’s two-run homer triggered a four-run rally in the third inning of a 6-3 win on Saturday.
Tampa Bay has been riding some tremendous performances to post a 26-15 mark since the All-Star break. Jonny Gomes has 11 homers since the break and Cantu has 34 RBIs over the last 40 games.
“These kids are swinging the bats,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “They’re not getting cheated up there.”
Closer Danys Baez, who worked the ninth Saturday for his AL-leading 17th save since the break, has spearheaded a stronger Tampa Bay bullpen.
“First, the starting pitching has been giving us anywhere from five to seven innings every night out,” Baez said. “Second, we now have the same lineup most every day. Guys like to know what their roles are. And third, the bullpen, we’re doing better now.”
Los Angeles has dropped three straight after opening its six-game road trip with a pair of wins. The Angels’ lead atop the AL West division has been cut to one-half game.
“I think it’s a character test,” Angels pitcher Paul Byrd said. “The A’s aren’t going anywhere, that’s been apparent for two months. It’s an exciting race that will come down to the end.”
Angels starter Jarrod Washburn is 7-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 10 career starts against Tampa Bay. Washburn captured the opener of the road trip, 7-6 at Baltimore on Tuesday by giving up one run and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings.
The 31-year-old left-hander continues to be bothered by the tendinitis in his left forearm that caused him to miss a pair of starts earlier this month.
“It is tight, but it isn’t something that will hinder me,” Washburn said. “It is not just going to magically go away (when I’m) going out there and making it angry every five days.”
Washburn is 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five career starts at Tropicana Field.