After creating some breathing room atop the AL West standings, the Los Angeles Angels look to further increase their lead during their longest homestand of the second half of the season.
The Angels hope to beat up on the division’s last-place team the same way they just did against their closest pursuer as they begin a three-game set against the Texas Rangers on Friday.
Los Angeles (79-54) has won four straight and eight of 11, moving within percentage points of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the majors.
The Angels finished a three-game sweep in Seattle with an 8-2 win on Wednesday. They outscored the Mariners 24-8 and totaled 43 hits.
“We played great baseball all through these games,” Wednesday’s starter Jered Weaver told the Angels’ official Web site. “Offensively, defensively, pitching … we played a great all-around series. That’s the way we have to play, together.”
That sweep, combined with the Mariners’ 6-5 loss to Cleveland on Thursday, gives the Angels a 5 1/2-game lead over second-place Seattle in the AL West.
“I think this series probably put in (the Mariners’) head that they have to worry about the wild card, not the division,” shortstop Orlando Cabrera said Wednesday. “(We’re) just leaving no doubt we’re a better team at this moment.”
The Angels open this 10-game homestand, which matches their longest of the season, with a major league-best 44-20 home record. Los Angeles, which also faces Oakland and Cleveland on the homestand, has not lost any of its last five series at home.
The Angels are 9-4 against the last-place Rangers (61-72) this season, including wins in five of six meetings at Angels Stadium.
Vladimir Guerrero homered Wednesday and finished the three-game set 8-for-14 (.571) with five RBIs. Guerrero, fourth in the majors with 108 RBIs, has hit .367 (18-for-49) and driven in 11 runs against Texas this year.
Garret Anderson is 8-for-14 with two homers and six RBIs during the Angels’ four-game win streak.
Guerrero and Anderson hope to stay hot in support of Joe Saunders (7-2, 3.62 ERA) on Friday.
Both of Saunders’ losses this year have come against the Toronto Blue Jays, who defeated him on Saturday in the Angels’ most recent defeat, 9-2. The left-hander allowed a season-high five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“I thought the ball was up in the zone as the game went on,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I don’t know if he had his best stuff, but he pitched well enough to keep us in the game.”
Saunders is 2-1 with a 4.86 ERA in three career starts against the Rangers - all last season.
Vicente Padilla (4-9, 6.24) counters for Texas. The right-hander is looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season. The Rangers are 4-1 in his last five starts, although Padilla is just 2-1 with a 6.12 ERA during that stretch.
He pitched six innings against Seattle on Sunday and allowed one run and five hits in a 5-3 win.
“He established his fastball, he used his fastball well,” manager Ron Washington said. “I hope he understands how good a fastball he has, especially when he puts it where he wants to.”
Padilla is 3-2 with a 4.64 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance against the Angels. He lost both starts against them this year, posting a 6.94 ERA in 11 2-3 innings.
The Rangers have won a season-high five straight, and completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday with a 5-1 victory. Sammy Sosa hit his 606th career homer in the second inning and had an RBI single in the fifth.
Before the game, the Rangers exercised their 2009 option on Washington’s contract.
“This just shows the organization is going in the right direction,” Washington said. “What we’ve accomplished is an excellent attitude, we have accomplished an attitude to make sure we go out and be true to the game.”
The Rangers last won six straight from April 29-May 4, 2006.