Before the Los Angeles Angels can begin a critical series against the AL West leaders, they have to finish a two-game set against one of the worst teams in the major leagues.
With time running out to make up ground in the division, the Angels seek a sweep against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Los Angeles defeated the Royals 5-2 in Tuesday’s opener, remaining 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Oakland Athletics, who defeated the Cleveland Indians. The A’s have 12 games remaining, while the Angels have 11 left.
Seven of those games are head-to-head, however. Following an off day on Thursday, the Angels will begin a three-game at Oakland. The division rivals will also play a four-game set at Angel Stadium to close out the season.
The Angels had dropped five of nine games prior to Tuesday’s victory.
“This guy is as good a hitter as there’s been in the game,” Angels (81-70) manager Mike Scioscia said of Guerrero, who has hit 30 homers for three straight seasons and eight times in the last nine years. “He not only puts up numbers, but he’s clutch. It’s been fun to watch. He’s certainly held up his end of what we needed.”
“They say this team is the worst record in baseball,” said Odalis Perez, who will start for Kansas City on Wednesday, “I don’t see it that way. … We’re playing very well against good teams.”
Los Angeles will hand the ball to Kelvim Escobar (10-13, 3.54 ERA) in the series finale. The right-hander lasted just four innings last Thursday at Texas before leaving with a sore knee. He allowed one run and two hits, but did not receive a decision in the 2-1 win.
“It was painful,” Escobar said. “I had trouble getting the ball down. I was pulling too much with my front shoulder. I wasn’t able to continue to pitch like that.”
Escobar is 8-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 24 appearances, including 10 starts, against the Royals.
Perez (2-3, 5.82) makes his 10th start since the Royals acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 25.
The left-hander allowed six runs and 10 hits in five innings against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, but got credit for the win thanks to an offense that backed him with seven runs in a 10-8 victory.
“He threw well, except for a couple of crucial pitches to some big hitters,” said catcher John Buck, who is expected to be back in the lineup for the first time since Friday because of a left hamstring strain. “For him to keep us in the ball game and to have the offense pick him up for once—we owed him one, because he’s been carrying us quite a bit in close games.”
Perez is 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA in four career starts against the Angels.