If the Los Angeles Angels hope to establish another milestone before the regular season ends, they will have to avoid another home loss.
The AL West champions, searching for their 100th victory, will try to prevent being swept at Angel Stadium for the first time this year on Sunday as they conclude a three-game set against the Texas Rangers.
Los Angeles (99-62) has faltered in its first two attempts to secure the franchise’s first 100-win season, choosing to focus on preparing for its division series opener against Boston on Wednesday. The Angels have lost the first two contests of this series against Texas (79-82), including Saturday’s 8-4 defeat.
The Angels haven’t been swept at home since June 25-27, 2007 against Kansas City. The Rangers haven’t swept three games in Anaheim since June 28-30, 1999.
But Los Angeles is still assured of the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“If we get to our 100th win, it’s great, but if we don’t, we accomplished what we need in the regular season,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site.
On Saturday, starter Ervin Santana was roughed up for eight runs over 5 2-3 innings in his final tuneup before the postseason.
Scioscia hasn’t named his playoff rotation yet, but Joe Saunders (16-7, 3.52 ERA) will probably be part of that group, considering that the Angels have been winning plenty of games behind him lately.
The left-hander has led them to four victories thus far in September—a span in which he is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA. He was particularly sharp in his last outing, tossing seven shutout innings and scattering six hits in a 6-4 win at Oakland on Sept. 18.
Saunders missed his schedule start at Seattle on Tuesday due to problems stemming from a kidney stone, but is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three outings when he’s had six days of rest or more.
However, he is just 2-3 with a 5.45 ERA in six lifetime starts against the Rangers. He gave up three runs and six hits over eight innings of a 3-2 loss in Texas on July 8.
Second-place Texas, which sits 20 games behind Los Angeles, hopes to cap its season by matching its five-game winning streak from May 6-10.
Josh Hamilton drove in two runs Saturday to overtake Minnesota’s Justin Morneau for the AL RBI lead with 130, while Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer for the Rangers, who surpassed the 900-run mark (901) for the fourth time in club history.
They last reached that scoring mark in 1999, but this will be their first such finish without making the playoffs.
“That was a very resilient offense we’ve had this year,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “All we have to do next year is clean up the deficiencies in our pitching staff.”
Washington hopes those improvements on the mound can start with Kevin Millwood (9-9, 5.03), who is 0-2 with a 6.12 ERA in four September starts. The right-hander held Oakland to two earned runs and eight hits, while fanning six over seven innings in a 4-3, 11-inning home loss on Monday.
Millwood seeks better results versus the Angels. He is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 10 all-time matchups, including 1-1 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts this year.