The Los Angeles Angels are trying to build some momentum at the plate as they continue their pursuit of the American League’s best record. A series at Texas may help their cause.
After avoiding a three-game sweep, the Angels’ lineup looks to put together another strong effort on the road against the Rangers when the teams open a three-game series Friday night.
Los Angeles (93-59), trying to finish with the AL’s top record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, scored a combined three runs in two losses against Oakland before avoiding a sweep with a 6-4 win Thursday.
Torii Hunter returned to the lineup, going 2-for-5 after injuring his cheekbone a day earlier. He was hit by a ball while working in the indoor batting cage before Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Athletics.
Hunter, batting .395 (17-for-43) in 12 games against Texas (75-78) this season, will try to help Los Angeles take advantage of a terrible Rangers’ pitching staff. Texas has a major league-worst 5.37 ERA on the season, and a 9.00 ERA in its last five contests.
Los Angeles is 4-2 at Texas this season, averaging 6.7 runs per game, and 8-5 in the season series overall. The Angels, though, are still dealing with injuries to key starters.
Third baseman Chone Figgins has missed two straight games due to a tender right elbow, and his status for Friday’s contest is uncertain. Slugger Vladimir Guerrero has missed five straight games with an injured right knee.
“The best record is certainly an advantage,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “But you can see as banged up as we are, we need to get guys in the lineup and get them healthy. That’s our No. 1 concern.”
The Angels will start Jon Garland (14-8, 4.47 ERA), who has been awful in two starts against the Rangers this season, going 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA. He is 5-8 with a 5.85 ERA in 18 starts and one relief appearance all-time against Texas.
The right-hander, though, has posted a 2.08 ERA en route to winning his last two starts. In his last outing, Garland gave up two runs and six hits in six innings as Los Angeles beat Seattle 5-2 on Saturday night.
Francisco Rodriguez broke the major league single-season record with his 58th save in that game, and he extended that mark with his 59th on Thursday. He bounced back after blowing his previous chance Wednesday.
“I can do a better job,” Rodriguez said. “Everything is there, the velocity’s there. I’m not making the right pitches in the right situations. … I’ll be all right. I hit a bump and had a couple of shaky outings. I always bounce back quick. It’s nothing to be concerned about. When it’s time for the playoffs, I’ll be ready.”
Rodriguez has earned eight saves in nine opportunities against Texas this season, posting a 3.12 ERA.
The Rangers will send promising rookie left-hander Matt Harrison (8-3, 5.06 ERA) to the mound. He pitched a five-hitter for his first career shutout and complete game as the Rangers beat Oakland 7-0 last Friday.
Harrison, 23, earned a win against the Angels in his major league debut, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings as Texas won 3-2 on July 8.
The Rangers’ pitching staff can certainly use a boost. Seven Texas pitchers combined to allow 17 hits in a 17-4 loss to Detroit on Wednesday.