A series against one of the majors’ worst teams couldn’t have come at a better time for the Los Angeles Angels.
Los Angeles (80-70) looks to start making up some ground in the AL West race when it begins a two-game set with the Kansas City Royals (58-92) on Tuesday.
The Angels lost the last two games of their series at Texas over the weekend and now trail Oakland by 6 1/2 games in the West. The Athletics have won four of their last five and their magic number to clinch the division is seven.
Los Angeles plays Oakland seven times in its final 10 games, including a four-game series at home to close the season, but winning two over the Royals would make the deficit more manageable for the Angels.
“We need to win,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “It doesn’t matter what other teams do if we don’t play well. We have to do more things, starting with the offense.”
The Angels lost 8-1 on Sunday, scoring the run in the top of the ninth.
“We have to play ball well, and if we don’t, (the race) is academic,” Scioscia said. “Today, we really didn’t do any of the things that we needed.”
Joe Saunders (5-3, 4.66 ERA) looks to get both himself and the team back on track when he starts on Tuesday. The rookie left-hander allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings of a 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday after giving up two runs in 15 innings over his two previous outings.
“I bounced back before and I’ll bounce back again,” Saunders said.
Kansas City was playing well before losing two of the final three contests of its four-game series with Seattle over the weekend. The Royals had won five of their previous six games, their best stretch since the All-Star break, but suffered bullpen breakdowns against the Mariners.
Kansas City’s relievers allowed seven runs in an 11-8 loss on Friday, then gave up six runs in a 10-5 defeat on Sunday.
“We got five more games of this homestand to finish the year out here and hopefully we’ll finish strong,” manager Buddy Bell said. “We’re playing some pretty good teams. This month hasn’t been easy in terms of who we play.”
One bright spot for the Royals has been first baseman Ryan Shealy, who Kansas City acquired from Colorado on July 31. Shealy had 11 RBIs in the four games against the Mariners and has 35 RBIs in 45 games since joining the Royals.
“He’s got quite a knack for driving in runs,” Bell said. “He doesn’t panic at the plate. He stays pretty much locked in all the time. He has one approach, and it’s an aggressive one.”
Jorge De La Rosa (3-2, 5.30) looks for his third straight victory when he takes the mound for the Royals on Tuesday. De La Rosa, who was acquired from Milwaukee on July 25, threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings in a win over the New York Yankees on Sept. 5 before allowing two runs and four hits in five innings of a 6-2 victory at Cleveland on Wednesday.
This is the first time in De La Rosa’s career that he’s won consecutive starts.