The Angels seek their eighth straight home victory against the Devil Rays on Wednesday afternoon when the teams conclude a three-game series.
John Lackey took a four-hit shutout into the ninth inning, and Frankie Rodriguez finished up in the Angels’ 2-1 victory on Tuesday.
The win reduced Los Angeles’ magic number for clinching the West to four as it maintained an 8 1/2-game lead on Seattle with 11 to play. The Angels (89-62) also remained tied with Cleveland, one-half game behind Boston in the race for baseball’s best record.
“You’d like to get it done as quick as you can so you can get everything lined up for whoever you’re going to play in the first round,” Lackey said.
After Lackey gave up a leadoff double to B.J. Upton in the ninth inning, Rodriguez came on and struck out the first two batters he faced before issuing a walk and an RBI single to Jorge Velandia. With the tying run on second, Rodriguez struck out Josh Wilson for his 36th save in 42 chances.
The Angels are 22-4 at home against the Devil Rays (63-89) since the start of the 2002 season. Tampa Bay hasn’t won at Angel Stadium since Sept. 25, 2005.
Howie Kendrick went 2-for-3 Tuesday and is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with a homer, a triple and four doubles in five career games against the Devil Rays.
Velandia had three of the Devil Rays’ six hits, and is 8-for-13 (.615) since he was called up from Triple-A Durham on Sept. 10.
Ervin Santana (6-13, 5.82 ERA) moves back into a starting role for Los Angeles. The right-hander will be replacing scheduled starter Bartolo Colon, who was scratched with back stiffness. Santana, who was moved to the bullpen when Colon returned to the rotation on Friday, has allowed only two earned in his last 15 innings, spanning two starts and one relief appearances.
“He’ll be fine. He’ll have enough stamina to go six or seven innings if he is effective,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team’s official Web site. “If he had been shut down for four weeks it’d be a different situation, but he warmed up a few times in the ‘pen and there was no wear and tear on his arm.”
Santana struggled in his only start this season against the Devil Rays, allowing seven runs and a career-high 14 hits over six innings of an 8-3 road loss on July 17.
He is 2-3 with a 6.90 ERA in five starts versus Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay also scratched its original starter, replacing James Shields with J.P. Howell (1-4, 7.36). The Devil Rays felt the time was right to shut down Shields, who is third in the AL with a career-high 215 innings pitched.
“I was pretty shocked,” Shields said. “I knew I was coming up on those innings. But I was pretty shocked. I wasn’t too happy with the decision, but it is what it is and there’s nothing I can really do about it.”
Howell, recalled from Durham on Monday, will be starting for the first time since July 21, when he was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 17-5 loss at Yankee Stadium. He is 0-3 with a 16.20 ERA in his past three starts.
The 24-year-old left-hander has never faced the Angels.