There is no denying the Los Angeles Angels are coming off a disappointing loss. A team in their position, however, can afford a few of those.
The Angels look to move a step closer to their third AL West title in four years on Monday night when they open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Jim Thome hit a two-run homer—the 500th of his career—in the bottom of the ninth to cap the comeback for the White Sox, who managed only one run and two hits in the first six innings.
“Something uncharacteristically happened to us. We gave up eight runs in three innings,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team’s official Web site. “That doesn’t happen very often. It happened today.”
Los Angeles is only 7-8 since winning five in a row from Aug. 26-31, but has gained two games on the fading Mariners. The Angels are tied with Cleveland for the second-best record in baseball.
A series with the Devil Rays (63-87) could be just what the Angels need to get back on track. They have won 10 of the last 13 meetings overall, and 15 of 17 at home, including five straight.
Tampa Bay may still have the worst record in the majors, but it has been a much improved team lately.
Tampa Bay has won 15 of 23 games since Aug. 24, and has a chance to finish above last place in the AL East for only the second time in the franchise’s 10-year history. It trails fourth-place Baltimore by two games.
“I like the level of play we are at right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We believe we can beat anybody on any given night period.”
Kelvim Escobar (17-7, 3.25 ERA) looks to continue the best season of his career for the Angels. The right-hander, who had never won more than 14 games in a season before this year, has won six of his last seven starts. He recorded his 100th win Wednesday in an 18-6 victory at Baltimore, despite allowing six runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. They put a lot of runs on the board,” Escobar said. “I didn’t pitch well, but I got the win.”
Escobar had no trouble with the Devil Rays in a 3-0 victory at Tropicana Field on July 19, limiting them to nine hits in 7 2-3 innings with three walks and five strikeouts. He is 5-7 with a 6.53 ERA in 14 starts against Tampa Bay.
Edwin Jackson (4-14, 5.94) tries to win for the first time in nearly a month for Tampa Bay. The right-hander followed two dismal starts with a much better performance Wednesday at Boston, allowing three runs and eight hits in six innings while walking three and striking out six. Jackson was in line for his first victory since Aug. 22 before the Red Sox rallied with two ninth-inning runs in a 5-4 victory.
Jackson lost his only start against the Angels this season 9-1 on April 25, giving up six runs - three earned - and eight hits in six innings. He is 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA five appearances, including two starts, versus Los Angeles.