After splitting four meetings earlier this season, they’ll get together for the first of three games on Friday night in Oakland, with the Angels aiming for their sixth straight win and the A’s looking for their fifth in a row.
Los Angeles (37-24) has the AL’s best record, and has won four of its season-high five in a row by one run.
The A’s, meanwhile, have seen what had been a slumping lineup - they’d scored just six runs in losing four straight to close May - come alive. Oakland (33-27) has tallied 30 runs during its run this month, which included a three-game sweep of Detroit.
The A’s used a six-run seventh inning to win 10-2 on Wednesday in the series finale.
“Lot of real positive things,” manager Bob Geren said. “The home runs, the big two-out hits, the big inning and strong pitching … that’s just a great formula to win.”
Not only have the A’s and Angels won 50 games when facing each other since 2003, they’ve also split the past six AL West titles. Despite a huge disparity between his club’s payroll and Oakland’s this season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t shocked to see the A’s trailing by just 3 1/2 games.
“There’s nothing surprising with what they’re doing,” he told the Angels’ official Web site. “They have the ability to win games much the way we are - they’re pitching great baseball.”
The Athletics’ 3.48 ERA is among the five best in the majors, but its patchwork lineup has shown some surprising pop. Oakland’s 30 runs in its last four games are the most since putting up the same total in a four-game series from April 28-May 1 in Los Angeles.
The Angels, who ranked sixth by scoring more than five runs a game last season, are averaging just 4.2 this season to rank in the bottom 10.
Part of that dropoff can be attributed to the lack of production from right fielder Vladimir Guerrero. The eight-time All-Star, who was hitting .357 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs through June 4 last season, is batting .249 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 2008.
He’s missed the team’s sweep of Seattle - capped by a 5-4 win on Wednesday - due to a sore right knee.
“Vlad’s certainly one of the keystones for our offense,” Scioscia said, adding that he hopes to have Guerrero back for this series. “But you have to be deeper than one guy.”
The A’s have one of their few struggling pitchers one the mound in the opener. Joe Blanton (3-7, 4.27 ERA) has won just once since April 27 and gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings in an 8-4 loss on Saturday at Texas.
Blanton hasn’t faced the Angels this season, but was 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA against them in 2007.
The Angels’ John Lackey (1-1, 1.80), has looked good in four starts after missing six weeks due to a triceps strain. He didn’t get a decision Saturday against Toronto, but allowed just two runs - one earned - over eight innings in the Angels 3-2, 10-inning win.
Lackey is 6-1 with a 1.87 over his last eight starts against Oakland.