After watching one of their All-Star pitchers get hit hard, the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels hope for a better performance from another one.
Los Angeles (54-35) beat Texas 9-6 on Monday despite a lackluster performance from Ervin Santana, who was a surprise addition to next Tuesday’s All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. The right-hander was tagged for six runs and 10 hits - including two homers - in seven innings.
Saunders (12-4, 3.04 ERA), who will join Santana and closer Francisco Rodriguez on the AL All-Star team, is in the midst of a breakout season.
The left-hander is tied with Arizona’s Brandon Webb for the major league lead with 12 wins. Saunders reached that mark Wednesday, allowing four runs - two earned - and six hits with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 victory over Oakland. That performance improved him to 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in his last four games.
“Twelve means I’ve gotten off to a good start, but I’ve got to keep it going,” Saunders said. “I don’t consider myself an All-Star, but I’m having a great year.”
Saunders has been outstanding in eight road starts this season, winning six of eight decisions with a 2.05 ERA.
He’s 2-2 with a 6.08 ERA in five overall starts against the Rangers (46-44), going 0-2 with a 16.43 ERA in two road outings.
Torii Hunter keyed Monday’s victory for the Angels, hitting two home runs and driving in three after going 4-for-31 with one homer and one RBI in his previous eight contests.
“I haven’t been playing up to par like I should be,” said Hunter, who signed a five-year, $90 million free agent contract in the offseason. “I’m trying to get used to this team, my environment, the travel, the whole thing.”
He’s excelled against the Rangers, hitting .417 (10-for-24) with three homers and five RBIs in the last six meetings - helping the Angels win four of those games.
Texas’ Ian Kinsler is looking to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 20 games after going 4-for-5 Monday, raising his average to an AL-best 338. The second baseman is batting .462 (36-for-78) with four homers and 11 RBIs during his 19-game run, matching the longest of his career set from May 16-June 4.
Kinsler is 5-for-11 (.455) with a homer off Saunders.
Matt Harrison will be called up from Triple-A Oklahoma to make his major league debut for the Rangers. The 22-year-old left-hander, acquired from Atlanta in the deal that sent Mark Teixeira to the Braves on July 31, will be the ninth Ranger to make his debut this season.
“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think Matt was ready,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told the team’s official Web site. “He’s a strike thrower. He’s got a good pitch mix. He’s got a mound presence. He’s most deserving of this opportunity at this point.”
Harrison has split time between Double-A Frisco and Oklahoma this season, and is a combined 6-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 15 starts.