Los Angeles (32-40) at Arizona (36-37)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 9:40 pm EDT Fri Jun 23, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Two teams surprisingly at the bottom of their divisions will begin a three-game set on Friday as the free-falling Arizona Diamondbacks face the Los Angeles Angels.

The Diamondbacks were a season-high 12 games over .500 on June 4 and had a 2 1/2 -game lead in the NL West. They’ve since lost 15 of 17 to plummet into last place, getting outscored 120-51 during the skid.

While Arizona’s deficit to division-leading San Diego is just 2 1/2 games, the Angels have gone 5-8 over the past two weeks to fall seven games behind first-place Oakland in the AL West. Los Angeles won the division the last two years.

“As badly as we’re playing, we can’t worry too much who we’re playing or how they’re playing,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve got to right our own ship.”

Playing another basement-dweller certainly doesn’t mean the Diamondbacks should be able to turn things around this weekend.

They already suffered a three-game sweep this week to Tampa Bay, the last-place team in the AL East. Arizona was held to eight runs and 18 hits in the series despite facing a Devil Rays staff which has one of the worst ERAs in the majors.

“It’s troubling for us to be offensively this bad for this long of a stretch,” Melvin said. “Guys are just trying too hard. We’re having a difficult time relaxing up there.”

Among the struggling Arizona hitters are Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez, both mired in 2-for-16 slumps. While Green has failed to drive in a run in four straight games, Gonzalez has only four RBIs in 19 games this month and hasn’t homered since April 20.

The Angels had been held to four runs or fewer in 10 consecutive games before salvaging the finale of a three-game set at San Francisco with a 6-3 win on Wednesday.

Juan Rivera hit a two-run homer and Macier Izturis had a tiebreaking, three-run double in the eighth inning as Los Angeles collected 11 hits, its highest total since June 10.

“Izzy gave us a big hit and a big lift,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We did things better today. With guys in scoring position, we got some big hits, two-out hits.”

Los Angeles hopes to get a lift Friday from Ervin Santana (7-3, 4.10 ERA), who heads to the mound looking to win his fourth straight start. The right-hander has given up just five runs and 11 hits over 19 2-3 innings during that win streak.

Santana, who has never faced Arizona, has pitched at least six innings in five consecutive starts.

He’ll be opposed by Enrique Gonzalez (2-0, 3.67 ERA). The rookie right-hander hopes to bounce back from his worst performance since being called up from the minors late last month. He was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in five innings in a 10-7 loss at Texas on Sunday.

Five days earlier, Gonzalez threw one-hit ball over seven scoreless innings to beat San Francisco 2-1. He had not given up more than two runs in any of his first four big-league outings.

While Arizona is 0-6 against AL teams this season, Los Angeles is 2-7 against NL clubs.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Santana Min vs. E. Gonzalez Det
16-8 Record 3-7
4.28 ERA 5.67
141 K 66
70 BB 34
1.23 WHIP 1.39