Tampa Bay looks to clinch its third straight home series victory Thursday night when it closes a three-game set against the Angels.
The Rays (30-31) halted a three-game losing streak - in which they scored nine runs and batted .181 - with a 9-5 win Wednesday.
Carlos Pena(notes) and Willy Aybar(notes) homered off John Lackey(notes) to help Tampa Bay bounce back after it fell 4-3 a night earlier. Pena’s homer was his 18th, one behind Mark Teixeira(notes) of the New York Yankees for the AL lead.
“That was really nice,” Pena told the Rays’ official Web site. “I was happy, first of all to be able to contribute. To drive the ball like that feels awesome. … To do what we did against a quality pitcher says a lot about our approach at the plate.”
The Rays went 4 for 9 with runners in scoring position after going 2 for 21 in the previous three games. Lackey, who had won nine of his previous 10 decisions against Tampa Bay, went only five innings, giving up nine runs - eight earned - and 11 hits.
The Rays haven’t lost a series at home against the Angels since July 24-26, 2006. Tampa Bay is 8-3 and batting .304 against Los Angeles’ pitchers since then.
Santana, though, is coming off his best start since being activated May 14 from the disabled list with an elbow injury. In his fifth start of 2009, the right-hander allowed one run and six hits over 8 2-3 innings of a 2-1 win over Detroit on Friday.
He had given up 15 runs in his previous two starts and hadn’t recorded a win since Sept. 22.
“Ervin answered a lot of questions with a resounding ‘yes’ tonight,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s been through a lot this year, so this was big for him.”
Los Angels (29-28) expects to have Torii Hunter(notes) back in the lineup after missing one game with a groin strain. The center fielder has an eight-game hitting streak against Tampa Bay, during which he’s hit .364 (12 for 33).
Price was in line for a second straight win on Saturday against the New York Yankees after allowing three runs - one earned - over 5 2-3 innings. The Yankees scored two runs in the eighth before Tampa Bay rallied for a 9-7 victory.
The 23-year-old left-hander hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in four career starts.