Very little has gone wrong offensively for the Los Angeles Angels of late. The Chicago White Sox hope the return of a key player gets their lineup going again when the teams open a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday.
Los Angeles beat Tampa Bay 11-3 on Thursday, its third straight win and sixth in seven games since losing six in a row.
The recent run has moved the Angels (12-10) into a one-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. Los Angeles has scored 29 runs and hit .333 in the three consecutive victories.
The Angels have made a stunning turnaround offensively in the last seven games, piling up 55 runs after scoring six during the losing streak.
On Thursday, Gary Matthews Jr. and Shea Hillenbrand each had three hits and an RBI, while Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero and Erick Aybar each drove in two runs for the Angels, who went 6-1 on their homestand.
“It was definitely a good homestand for this team and a good confidence builder for us also,” said Matthews, 13-for-27 (.481) with seven runs and six RBIs in his last six games.
The center fielder went 14-for-33 (.424) against Chicago in eight games with Texas in 2006.
Los Angeles will look to carry over its hot play to the road, where it’s 1-7 and has lost six straight. The Angels went 3-6 at U.S. Cellular Field in 2006.
“Every team feels comfortable at home, but we have to make sure these young guys know that we have to do it on the road, too,” Cabrera said.
Chicago (11-9) comes into Friday’s game following an unplanned day off, as Thursday’s contest against Detroit was rained out.
After scoring 16 runs in a two-game sweep of Kansas City, the White Sox managed just four hits in a 6-2 home loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
Right fielder Jermaine Dye is expected to play Friday after missing Wednesday’s game with a strained glut, but designated hitter Jim Thome could sit out a fourth straight contest with mild irritation of his right rib cage.
Dye is hitting .209, but could provide a boost for Chicago’s lineup if Thome can’t go.
Thome, hitting a team-leading .340 with five homers and 10 RBIs, said he can play, but manager Ozzie Guillen said Thursday his return might be a few days away.
“A couple more days?” Thome said. “As a player, you come and want to be ready to go every day. We’ll see what happens. We’ll do our work and get going (Friday).”
Los Angeles will send right-hander Ervin Santana (2-2, 5.64 ERA) to the mound Friday. Santana allowed one run and six hits in seven innings of a 6-1 win over Seattle on Sunday.
Santana is 21-5 with a 3.01 ERA in his career at home, but struggles on the road, where he went 0-2 with an 11.88 ERA in 2007 and is 9-13 with a 6.78 ERA in his career. Santana, however, is 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA in four starts against Chicago, including a win at U.S. Cellular last season.
Jose Contreras (1-2, 6.16 ERA), scheduled to start Thursday, will take the ball for the White Sox on Friday. The right-hander allowed five runs and five hits in seven innings, and didn’t factor in the decision in Chicago’s 7-5 win at Detroit on Saturday.
Contreras is 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA against the Angels in five starts, with both victories coming in 2006.