Although the Los Angeles Angels are running away with the AL West title, they haven’t won a series in more than two weeks.
The Angels try to end a run of four straight series without winning one when they conclude a three-game home set with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
Los Angeles (80-51) has a 16-game lead on Texas in the division, but has gone 8-10 since sweeping the New York Yankees from Aug. 8-10. The Angels have lost three series since and split another before splitting the first two-games of this set against the Athletics (60-72).
They rode an outstanding effort from John Lackey to win 5-1 on Tuesday. Lackey took a shutout into the ninth inning and ended up with a seven-hitter for his third complete game of the year.
Torii Hunter had three of the Angels’ 12 hits as they broke out a bit after scoring a total of 34 runs in their previous 11 games.
Los Angeles’ offense should get a boost Wednesday since Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero are both expected to return. Anderson did not start for the second straight game Tuesday with a sore left knee.
“Garret’s definitely available and hopefully he’ll be in the lineup (Wednesday),” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told his team’s official Web site.
Scioscia also gave Guerrero a second straight night off Tuesday after the slugger had played for 10 straight days. Guerrero, who is hitting just .143 (7-for-43) against Oakland this year, is also expected back Wednesday.
The Angels will start Joe Saunders (14-6, 3.37 ERA), who looks to win for the third time in as many outings against the A’s this season. He has a 1.26 ERA in winning the first two starts - both in Anaheim - with 10 total strikeouts and just three walks.
The left-hander endured his worst start in more than two months on Friday against Minnesota as he was tagged for six runs in 5 1-3 innings in a 9-0 loss. He hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in 11 straight outings since giving up eight over 4 2-3 innings in a 13-4 loss to Tampa Bay on June 9.
The Angels are 10-3 in Saunders’ starts at home.
The A’s are trying to salvage a split of their 10-game road trip. They’ve scored a total of 25 runs on the trip as Bobby Crosby (7-for-33), Kurt Suzuki (7-for-31) and Emil Brown (5-for-25) are among the regulars struggling.
Oakland rookie Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 3.37) will make his fifth career start. He lasted five innings his last time out and did not receive a decision after giving up four runs in five innings in a 7-5 loss at Seattle on Friday.
That was the 22-year-old left-hander’s first career start against an AL West opponent. Gonzalez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Aug. 6 and has been named a Pacific Coast League All-Star.