Although they still aren’t hitting home runs, the Los Angeles Angels’ offense appears to be back on track.
Coming off their biggest offensive performance in nearly two months, the Angels seek their third straight win Saturday when they continue a weekend series against the Detroit Tigers in a matchup of division leaders.
The Angels (59-42) came out of the All-Star break with two straight wins before losing seven of their next nine games. Their biggest problem in that span was an lineup that managed 3.8 runs per game with only one home run.
In their past two games, though, Los Angeles has scored 18 runs and pounded out 28 hits, resulting in a 7-6 win over Oakland and Friday’s 11-6 victory over Detroit.
Gary Matthews Jr. broke an 0-for-19 slump with three run-scoring hits and Chone Figgins added four hits Friday. The Angels never trailed after scoring six first-inning runs, their most productive opening inning since they plated seven runs in the first inning of a 17-1 victory over Toronto on April 29, 1999.
Despite scoring their most runs overall since a 16-3 victory over Minnesota on June 4, the Angels failed to homer for the 17th time in 19 games.
All-Star right fielder Vladimir Guerrero hasn’t gone deep since June 23 - a career-high span of 25 games and 101 at-bats.
Los Angeles, which remains four games ahead of Seattle in the AL West, is 29th in the majors with 66 home runs, ahead of only Washington (64).
Detroit lost for the fourth time in five contests and saw its lead in the Central sliced to one-half game over Cleveland.
Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco went 5-for-5 with a home run in the defeat, raising his average to .340 - third in the AL behind teammate Magglio Ordonez (.354) and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki (.346).
“He just hits everything and never strikes out, so you have to locate all your pitches to that guy,” Angels starter and losing pitcher Jered Weaver said. “He’s a little guy, but he toes up there and battles. He’s a great hitter and has a great approach.”
Tigers designated Gary Sheffield returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore shoulder, but went 0-for-4 with a walk.
“My team needs me out there, and I want to be out there,” Sheffield told the Tigers’ official Web site.
Joe Saunders (4-0, 2.89 ERA) looks to further cement his spot in the Angels’ rotation. The left-hander has responded each time he has been called on for an emergency start.
On Sunday, he limited Minnesota to two runs and six hits over seven innings in a 7-2 victory. It was the fifth time in six starts he held an opponent to three runs or fewer.
Saunders’ performance in the majors this season is surprising given his 4-7 record and 5.11 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake City.
He gave up one run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings in his only appearance against the Tigers last Sept. 2, but did not factor in the decision.
Detroit’s Andrew Miller (5-3, 3.78) hopes to atone for his most recent outing. The 22-year-old left-hander had his worst start of the season Monday against the Chicago White Sox, allowing five runs and a career-high 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings before leaving without a decision in his team’s 9-6 victory.
Miller had surrendered only four earned runs in his previous three starts before struggling at U.S. Cellular Field. He has never faced the Angels.
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