Only one division rival of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels has consistently frustrated them this season.
The Angels look to shake their struggles against the slumping Oakland Athletics when they open a four-game series at McAfee Coliseum on Thursday.
An 8-7 loss in 12 innings to Seattle on Wednesday reduced Los Angeles’ division lead over the second-place Mariners to three games. The Angels (62-44) have a 12-game lead over the third-place Athletics, but Oakland has been making things difficult on Los Angeles.
The Angels are 9-4 against Texas and 8-4 against Seattle this season, but 3-6 against the A’s. They lost their only two games at McAfee Coliseum, managing one total run in those contests.
Los Angeles’ struggles against Oakland don’t include Vladimir Guerrero, who went 4-for-6 with two RBIs on Wednesday.
Guerrero is batting .435 (10-for-23) with two home runs and six RBIs in six games against the A’s this season, and is 4-for-7 with a homer and a double lifetime against Thursday’s starter Chad Gaudin.
The Angels will hand the ball to Joe Saunders (4-0, 3.16), who has done an excellent job as a spot starter this season. Los Angeles is 6-1 in Saunders’ starts, although the loss came against Oakland in the left-hander’s season debut April 5. He gave up three runs and a season-high nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 defeat April 5, although he didn’t get the decision.
Since that game, Saunders has shuttled between the majors and Triple-A Salt Lake. He’s currently in the Angels rotation in place of the ineffective Ervin Santana, who has been in the minors since July 18, and has posted a 3.65 ERA in two starts since being recalled.
Saunders gave up three runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 10-3 win over Detroit on Saturday, but didn’t factor in the decision.
“It is a relief - it’s nice to know the club feels confident in you to go out and do the job,” Saunders told the team’s official Web site. “We’re right there, in first place. We’re going to be contending. Guys here are happy to be here and want to stay.”
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in three career starts against Oakland.
The A’s (51-57) defeated the Tigers 3-2 on Wednesday to win their second straight following a four-game losing streak. Oakland, however, has dropped 16 of 23.
Mike Piazza went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and is batting .354 (17-for-48) with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 11 games since coming off the disabled list July 20. He went 6-for-14 with two homers in a three-game series at Angel Stadium from July 23-25, and is hitting .444 (16-for-36) with three home runs, four doubles and seven RBIs in nine games against Los Angeles this season.
Gaudin (8-6, 3.71 ERA) is 0-3 with a 7.89 ERA in his last four starts after recording a 1.23 ERA in winning consecutive starts on June 30 and July 5. The right-hander threw his first career complete game his last time out, yielding four runs, four hits and striking out seven in eight innings, but suffered a 4-3 defeat to Seattle on Saturday.
“Compared to my last three starts, I can take a positive note out of this,” Gaudin told the team’s official Web site. “It was a tough loss.”
In his previous start, Gaudin yielded five runs, six hits and six walks in a season-low 3 2-3 innings of a 12-6 victory over the Angels on July 23. However, he’s 1-0 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts against Los Angeles this season, with the A’s winning each of those games.