The Los Angeles Angels are hoping their offense comes around before they lose their AL West lead.
The Angels look to avoid their first three-game sweep in Minnesota in more than decade Sunday when they wrap up their set with the Twins.
The Angels (56-40) have dropped five of their last six games, and their division lead has shrunk from eight games on June 24 down to one. Los Angeles lost 5-2 to the Twins (51-46) on Saturday, but second-place Seattle failed to capitalize, falling 1-0 to Toronto.
The Angels have not been swept in three games in Minnesota since June 3-5, 1996.
Los Angeles has been outscored 32-19 over its last six contests and has gone 14 straight games without a homer - a span of 132 innings.
“When we get in our game, start getting on base, getting runners in scoring position … those things are more important than home runs,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “During that stretch when we were averaging six runs a game, we weren’t doing it with home runs.”
Chone Figgins had an RBI triple among his two hits Saturday and is one of the few Angels who’s hot at the plate, going 13-for-25 (.520) during a seven-game hitting streak. Los Angeles, though, was undone when Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer hit a three-run inside-the-park home run in the eighth inning.
Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. slammed into the fence trying to catch the drive and jammed his left wrist. He will be evaluated Sunday.
Mauer, who has hit in seven straight games, became the first Twins catcher with an inside-the-park homer since Chad Moeller did it July 29, 2000 against the New York Yankees. The hit lifted Minnesota to its second straight victory after being swept in three games by Detroit earlier in the week.
The Twins trail the AL Central-leading Tigers by eight games.
The Angels will recall Joe Saunders (3-0, 2.97 ERA) from Triple-A Salt Lake City to start in place of Ervin Santana, who was sent to the minors Wednesday. Saunders has not started in the majors since June 22, when he gave up four runs in six innings of the Angels’ 11-inning, 5-4 win over Pittsburgh.
Saunders has made five starts this season and Los Angeles has won each of the last four. The left-hander has never faced the Twins.
“Hopefully, I’ll stay up and this isn’t a one-start deal, (instead) a multi-outing deal,” he told the Angels’ Web site. “If I pitch pretty well, I hope they can keep me up here. I think they know I can pitch up here.”
Minnesota will counter with Matt Garza (1-1, 0.00), who is making his fourth appearance and third start of the season. He is coming off an outstanding outing Tuesday, when he gave up just one unearned run in seven innings, but was outpitched by Detroit’s Nate Robertson in a 1-0 loss.
“He pitched well - using his curveball, a good changeup, great fastballs and a great angle,” Gardenhire told the Twins’ Web site. “And he did what he was asked to do and that’s go out and give us a chance to win.”
Garza, who also appeared in 10 games for the Twins last season, has never faced the Angels.
Los Angeles traded veteran backup catcher Jose Molina to the New York Yankees for minor league reliever Jeff Kennard after Saturday’s game.