Los Angeles reduced its magic number to two with a 4-3 win in Monday’s series opener.
The Angels have won nine out of 10 and can wrap up the division and eliminate the Athletics with a win in any of the final three games of this series.
“The only magic number that matters is when it’s zero,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve got one more game, we’ve got to get to get it done. Every game’s going to be tough.”
Steve Finley hit a two-run homer and John Lackey pitched six effective innings on Monday as Los Angeles handed fading Oakland its eighth loss in 13 games. Closer Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth inning to tie New York’s Mariano Rivera for second place in the AL with 42 saves.
The Angels eliminated the A’s last season on the final weekend of the season and are in position to celebrate in Oakland for the second straight year.
“We knew we pretty much had to sweep, but we’re still in it,” Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby insisted. “We still have a shot. We have to hope for the best.”
Garret Anderson was hitless in four at-bats on Monday in his third straight start as Los Angeles’ designated hitter. Anderson missed the three previous games with a sore lower back.
“Hopefully not too long, but it’s not quite to the point he’s comfortable out in left field,” Scioscia said. “I want to get his bat in the lineup. It will give us more options if we get him in left field. We’ll take it day-to-day. I don’t want to put a guy out there if it’s a risk at all.”
Rookie Ervin Santana will get the start for Los Angeles. Santana is 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in three starts against the A’s this season.
However, the 22-year-old right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA over his last four starts on the road. Santana has won two straight—both at home—after giving up three runs and six hits over six innings in a 7-4 victory over Texas on Thursday.
He became the first rookie to win 10 games for the Angels since Jason Dickson went 13-9 in 1997.
Oakland counters with struggling Joe Kennedy, who is 0-4 with a 5.67 ERA over his last five starts since winning at Baltimore on Aug. 27.
The left-hander is 0-7 with a 6.28 ERA against the Angels in nine career appearances, including eight starts. Kennedy surrendered two runs and seven hits over six innings in a 3-0 loss at Anaheim on Sept. 1 in his last start against the Angels.
In two home starts this season, Kennedy is 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA.