The Angels return to Oakland to meet the Athletics for the first time this season Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.
Two years ago, the teams were tied for the division lead heading into the season’s final weekend when the Angels (8-8) won the first two games of a three-game set at the Coliseum to capture the crown. Los Angeles also clinched at Oakland in the final week of 2005, beating the Athletics in the first two games of a four-game set to set off another celebration.
The teams were closely matched last season with the Angels winning 10 of 19 meetings.
The timing could be better for Oakland (7-9) to see its biggest rival. Closer Huston Street is suffering from a slight muscle strain on the right side of his chest, an injury that may have paved the way for a 4-3 loss to Detroit to Thursday.
That’s because the A’s bullpen was unable to protect a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning. Reliever Justin Duchscherer allowed hits to the first four Tigers he faced in the ninth inning and later walked in the go-ahead run.
Despite the setback, Duchscherer will continue to serve as the closer with Street sidelined. Street has no history of injury in the chest area and the A’s do not want to take any chances.
“The doctors are confident a couple days rest and he’s going to be fine,” manager Ken Macha said.
Oakland left fielder Nick Swisher will try to start a new hitting streak after his 10-game run was snapped as he went 0-for-2 with two walks.
The A’s, who have dropped seven of their last nine games, are hoping Rich Harden (2-0, 3.66 ERA) can win his third straight start. Harden gave up four runs and five walks in seven innings on Saturday, but allowed just three hits and struck out eight in a 5-4 victory over Texas.
The 24-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA in four appearances against Los Angeles last season. Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero went just 2-for-11 against him in 2005.
Los Angeles is making the final stop on a 10-game road trip that has taken them to both coasts. After losing three of four in Baltimore to start the trip, the Angels rebounded to win two of three at Minnesota after a 6-4 victory on Thursday.
Jose Molina doubled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and Edgardo Alfonzo recorded his first two hits in an Angels uniform. Alfonzo, who entered the game hitless in nine at-bats, went 2-for-4 before being lifted for a pinch runner.
Center fielder Darin Erstad added three hits Thursday and finished the series 6-for-14. He is batting .333 (12-for-36) on the road this season.
Erstad, however, struggled against Oakland last season, batting .154 (10-for-65) with 16 strikeouts in 17 games.
Los Angeles starter John Lackey (2-1, 4.26) has pitched well against the A’s, going 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 13 starts. He’s 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in six outings at the Coliseum.
The right-hander won his second straight start on Sunday, limiting Baltimore to two runs and six hits over eight innings in a 9-3 victory. Lackey has issued only two walks—one intentional—in 19 innings this season.