The Los Angeles Angels have two of their best pitchers on the disabled list. Thanks to a potent offense, they don’t seem to be missing them at all.
Los Angeles will try to get off to its best start in 37 years when it plays host to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night in the start of a four-game series between the AL West rivals.
The Angels (3-0) have not won four consecutive games to start a season since winning their first five in 1970. They opened with three straight wins in 1991 and 2004 before completing a three-game sweep of Texas on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory.
“We’re playing good baseball,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia after his team outscored the Rangers 17-7. “We still have some things we’re trying to clean up, but all in all, we’ve had a lot of good things happening.”
One of the issues the Angels faced coming into 2007 was the health of two their top pitchers. Bartolo Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, continues to recover from a torn rotator cuff that limited him to 10 games last year, and Jered Weaver—11-2 as a rookie last season—has recurring biceps tendinitis.
With the staff short-handed, Joe Saunders will get the start for Scioscia. Saunders went 7-3 with a 4.71 ERA in 13 starts as a rookie last season after being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake in July when Weaver first had the arm injury and Kelvim Escobar was on the disabled list.
Saunders, a left-hander, posted a 1.67 ERA while winning his first four starts including a 3-2 win over Oakland on Aug. 1 when he allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. He lasted just two-thirds of an inning when he next faced the A’s on Sept. 30, giving up five runs and four hits, but didn’t get a decision as Los Angeles rallied for a 7-6 win.
“There is value in having faced them, to see their tendencies,” Saunders said on the Angels’ official Web site. “It’s the same as them seeing me and my tendencies.”
Vladimir Guerrero has gotten off to a stellar start, batting .545 (6-for-11) with a homer, a double and five RBIs in the series. He hit just .254 (15-for-59) with four homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games last season against the A’s.
Oakland (1-2) hopes it can get to Saunders again and build on its first win of the new season. Ninth-place hitter Mark Ellis went 2-for-5 with five RBIs, and the A’s avoided being swept with a 9-0 rout of Seattle on Wednesday. The second baseman will try to carry that momentum into the series with the Angels, against whom he batted .125 (7-for-56) with only one RBI in 2006.
“That’s the kind of involvement we need from everybody,” A’s center fielder Milton Bradley said. “Mark Ellis isn’t in the nine-hole because he can’t hit. He’s in the nine-hole because we have a great lineup.”
Now that new manager Bob Geren has his first win under his belt, he will give the ball to Chad Gaudin, who’s making his first start since June 14, 2005 while with Toronto. The right-hander, 2-3 with a 6.98 ERA in 10 career starts, is replacing Esteban Loaiza while he’s on the DL with a bulging disc in his neck that’s causing muscle spasms.
Gaudin was 2-2 with two saves and 3.09 ERA in 55 relief appearances last season, his first with the A’s. He pitched a perfect inning on Oct. 1 to get the win in Oakland’s 11-10 victory in 10 innings over Los Angeles.
The A’s were 5-4 in Los Angeles last season, but lost the season series 11-8.