The Los Angeles Angels don’t seem content to simply run away with the AL West title—they’re proving they can beat nearly every possible AL playoff opponent, every conceivable way.
Carrying another five-game winning streak, the visiting Angels will look to become the first 70-win team of 2008 as they face the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Los Angeles had baseball’s best record in July, going 19-6 during the month. But a turn of the calender didn’t slow down the hottest team in the league, as the Angels (69-40) again beat New York 1-0 on Friday for their 14th win in the last 16 games.
They used three three-run home runs to beat the Yankees 12-6 on Thursday, but they only needed four hits to secure at least a split of this weekend’s four-game set, their final regular-season series at Yankee Stadium.
The two wins over New York (59-50) followed a three-game sweep of Boston at Fenway Park, continuing the Angels’ domination of AL contenders.
Los Angeles, which leads the West by 12 1/2 games over Texas, is now 28-15 against AL clubs that currently have winning records. With a win on Saturday, the Angels would move at least 30 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2002 season, when they eventually won their only World Series title.
“It’s incredible how he’s gotten so many opportunities,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodriguez. “Hopefully we’ll get the offense going to have the chance to give the guys at the back end of the bullpen some days off.”
Hunter has providing plenty of that recently, hitting in 14 straight games. On the Angels’ current road trip, during which they’re 7-1 to improve to 38-19 on the road, Hunter is 12-for-32 (.375) with five homers and 15 RBIs.
He’ll try to support Jered Weaver (9-8, 4.11 ERA) on Saturday. The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last six starts, has won both of his career outings at Yankee Stadium, allowing four runs in 11 innings. As a team, Los Angeles is 15-9 in the Bronx since the beginning of the 2004 season.
Mike Mussina (13-7, 3.56) will try to stop the Yankees’ struggles on their current homestand, as New York has dropped four of five at home and five of six overall. It trails Tampa Bay by 5 1/2 games in the AL East and Boston by 2 1/2 games in the wild card standings.
Yankees pitchers had allowed 44 runs in their last five games before Friday, but it was the bats who faltered while Sidney Ponson threw seven shutout innings Friday.
“This has not been a good homestand and we’ve got to bounce back,” manager Joe Girardi said. “To win games, you’ve got to put everything together and we have not done that on this homestand.”
Mussina will also be trying to rebound after he gave up a season-high six earned runs in five innings of a 13-4 loss to Baltimore Monday to begin the homestand. In his previous four starts, the right-hander went 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA.
In his last start against the Angels, he allowed seven runs in 1 2-3 innings of an 18-9 loss in Anaheim last Aug. 21. He’s 15-9 with a 3.71 ERA lifetime versus Los Angeles.