The Texas Rangers missed several chances to make up some ground in the AL West race during a series against the team with the division’s worst record earlier this week.
Continuing their domination of the first-place Los Angeles Angels would likely provide some consolation for those blown opportunities.
After delivering another strong performance at the plate in the series opener, the Rangers try to beat the Angels for the ninth time in 11 games Saturday night in Anaheim.
Texas (61-47) dropped three of four against last-place Oakland this week, a frustrating series for a team trying to catch Los Angeles (64-43) and capture its first division title in a decade.
The Rangers, though, have to be encouraged by their play against the Angels. They’ve averaged 6.9 runs and batted .295 while winning eight of the clubs’ first 10 meetings, including an 11-6 victory in the series opener Friday night that pulled them within 3 1/2 games of first place.
“We’ve been swinging the bats pretty good the last couple of games, and hopefully we can keep playing well,” Friday’s starter Scott Feldman(notes) said. “Hopefully we can win this series and get some momentum.”
Vizquel, who hadn’t homered since Sept. 30, 2007, acknowledged the Rangers’ impressive play against the Angels this year.
“We hit the ball hard, and that wakes up the team a little bit,” the 42-year-old veteran said. “We raised the level of our game against these guys.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has definitely noticed.
“They’re a strong club,” said Scioscia, whose team has won four of the last five AL West titles but has a 14-18 intradivisional record.
“We’re going to have to play well to get through our division, and this is a bump in the road. We have to focus on how we’re playing the game, not who or where.”
Kevin Millwood(notes) (9-7, 3.36 ERA) will start Saturday for the Rangers after missing two turns in the rotation because of a strained gluteus muscle. That injury forced the right-hander out of his last start July 26 after two scoreless innings.
After going 0-2 with an 8.83 ERA over his last three starts before the All-Star break, Millwood has a 2.25 ERA over two starts - eight innings - in the second half.
Millwood was 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA in his first two starts against Los Angeles this season, both Texas wins. He gave up nine runs in five innings of his last start against the Angels, a 9-4 loss July 6.
Jered Weaver(notes) (11-3, 3.79 ERA), who will start Saturday, got that win for the Angels with seven strong innings. He’s 3-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts against the Rangers, including 1-1 with a 5.75 ERA in three this season.
Weaver, a right-hander, has a 6.95 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break, but Los Angeles has won each one behind its explosive offense, improving to 12-2 in Weaver’s 14 starts since May 22.
Weaver gave up four runs and struck out a career-high 11 in 6 1-3 innings to beat Minnesota 13-4 on Sunday, reaching 11 wins for the fourth time in four major league seasons.