He’ll look to defeat the Athletics for the third time in four starts this season as the Angels try to avoid a three-game road sweep on Thursday.
Saunders (15-7, 3.65 ERA) is 2-1 with a 4.60 ERA in three outings against Oakland (71-80) this year, but the loss came Aug. 27 when the left-hander was tagged for six runs over a season-low 1 1-3 innings in a 6-5 defeat.
“What affected me was not being able to throw strikes and get ahead of guys,” Saunders said. “I’ve just been struggling lately.”
That loss capped a three-start stretch in which Saunders went 0-2 with a 11.57 ERA. Since facing Oakland, he’s back to his All-Star form, going 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three outings after giving up three runs in seven innings and not factoring in the decision during a 5-3 victory over Seattle on Friday.
The strong series of starts may have solidified Saunders’ place in the postseason rotation for the AL West champion Angels, who have five starters with at least 11 wins this year.
Los Angeles (92-59) may be without outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera for this game. Manager Mike Scioscia expects to have both back in the lineup Friday against Texas, and there’s an outside chance Rivera may play Thursday.
Guerrero has an injured right knee while Rivera has a mild strain of his right hip flexor.
In addition, Angels center fielder Torii Hunter was scratched from the lineup before Wednesday’s 3-2 loss after getting hit in his right cheekbone by a ball while taking indoor batting practice.
“I should play tomorrow but it’s up to them,” Hunter said Wednesday. “I told them I feel good, and if not, I understand.”
Los Angeles hasn’t been swept in a series since May 9-11 at Tampa Bay.
Oakland has won four straight after a wild win Wednesday. Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give the Angels a 2-1 lead, but the A’s took advantage of two throwing errors in the bottom half, including one by closer Francisco Rodriguez that allowed two runs to score.
“There’s no place better to win than against K-Rod in the bottom of the ninth,” Oakland’s Daric Barton said.
Rookie Josh Outman (1-0, 3.86) will get the ball for the A’s in his second career start. He won his first major league start Saturday against Texas, giving up one run in five innings in a 7-1 victory.
“It was incredible,” Outman said. “My first major league start, I can’t really describe it as anything other than that. I commanded all four of my pitches and threw breaking balls for strikes consistently. That’s something I hadn’t done.”
The left-hander, who turned 24 on Sunday, was acquired July 17 in the trade that sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia.