The AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels look to avoid their longest losing streak in almost two months Tuesday night when they visit the slumping Baltimore Orioles to open a three-game series and a six-game road trip.
The Angels (84-59) dropped their final two games against AL Central-leading Cleveland over the weekend, including a 6-2 loss on Sunday. Los Angeles, which went 5-5 on a 10-game homestand, has not lost three consecutive games since July 15-18.
The offense produced only two runs while batting .219 in the last two losses, could get some help if Vladimir Guerrero returns. The 2004 AL MVP, who leads the Angels with a .326 batting average, 22 home runs and 110 RBIs, missed the entire series with the Indians due to inflammation in his right triceps.
Juan Rivera started the last two games in right field in Guerrero’s place, going 1-for-7 with an RBI.
“I think we can match up with anybody,” Angels left fielder Reggie Willits said. “But anytime you take one of the best players in the game away from the lineup, it’s not quite the same.”
The Angels, who have won their last four road games while outscoring their opponents 27-9, turn to Joe Saunders (7-3, 3.78 ERA) for the series opener.
The left-hander has struggled in his last three starts, going 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA. He took the loss Wednesday, allowing four runs and seven hits - including two home runs - in six innings of a 6-2 defeat to Oakland.
Saunders fared better in his only career start against Baltimore (61-81) on June 2, when he gave up two runs and four hits in six innings of a 7-4 victory.
The Angels took three of four games in that series at home, and also won two of three contests from the Orioles at Camden Yards from June 29-July 1.
Baltimore, meanwhile, is mired in a dismal stretch with only three wins in its last 19 games.
The Orioles fell 3-2 to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday and lost starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie - likely for the season - to a strained rib muscle. That injury came one day after the club placed ace Erik Bedard on the 60-day disabled list with the same injury.
“I’ll go light a candle tonight on the way home and expect a miracle,” said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, whose pitching staff has compiled a 8.52 ERA over the last 19 games.
The news got even worse for Baltimore later Sunday, when reports surfaced that right fielder Jay Gibbons received performance-enhancing steroids and human growth hormone after both substances were banned by baseball.
Gibbons is hitting a career-low .230 this season with six homers and 28 RBIs in 84 games.
Baltimore gives Victor Santos his first start in over a year after acquiring him in a trade from Cincinnati on Friday.
The journeyman right-hander went 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 32 relief appearances for the Reds. He has not started since Sept. 5, 2006, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings for Pittsburgh against the Chicago Cubs.
The Orioles are Santos’ seventh club in a seven-year major league career.