Tampa Bay (61-52) at Los Angeles (67-44)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Anaheim, CA
Temp: 54° F
  • Game info: 3:35 pm EDT Wed Aug 12, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Considering they’re the defending AL champions and are once again a playoff contender, the Tampa Bay Rays were hoping this trip to Angel Stadium would be different than their previous visits.

Instead, it’s looking similar to nearly every other series they’ve had in Anaheim.

The Rays look to avoid suffering another sweep at Angel Stadium on Wednesday when they wrap up a three-game set against surging Los Angeles, which seeks its 19th victory in 26 games since the All-Star break.

Tampa Bay (61-52) has historically struggled in Anaheim, and that’s proving to be the case again this year. After dropping Monday’s opener 8-7, Ervin Santana(notes) was too much for the Rays on Tuesday, throwing a three-hitter in Tampa Bay’s 6-0 loss.

The Rays, who have lost four of the first five on their six-game trip, extended their losing streak at Angel Stadium to four games and have lost 33 of the last 39 meetings there.

Although Tampa Bay fell 3 1/2 games back of wild card-leading Boston with Tuesday’s defeat, manager Joe Maddon isn’t discouraged.

“We’ve been playing pretty good ball, so these two games don’t make me feel any worse or negative in that regard,” Maddon said. “I fully expect to be back here playing them in October.”

While Maddon has an optimistic outlook on the Rays’ playoff chances, the Angels (67-44) are in position for a third straight AL West title.

Los Angeles is 18-7 since the All-Star game and owns a five-game lead over Texas in the division.

Jeff Mathis(notes) hit a three-run double and Reggie Willits(notes) had a two-run single Tuesday for the Angels, who are trying to sweep the Rays for the fourth time in their last five series in Anaheim.

Although it hasn’t seemed to make much difference who starts for the Angels at home against the Rays, it could be tough to complete the sweep this time with Trevor Bell(notes) set to make his major league debut.

Bell has been called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to take the spot in the rotation for the injured Joe Saunders(notes), who is on the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his left shoulder. Manager Mike Scioscia said Bell will make at lest two starts while Saunders is out.

Bell went 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 11 starts for the Bees after going 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 11 games for Double-A Arkansas. The 22-year-old right-hander hasn’t pitched well lately, though, going 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in his last five Pacific Coast League outings.

“I think he’s ready,” Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “I think he’s the best option for the staff to move forward from here.”

The Rays counter with Jeff Niemann(notes) (10-5, 3.73), who was cruising early against Seattle on Friday before running into trouble.

Niemann allowed one run and two hits through the first six innings, but then yielded three runs and three hits before being removed with one out in the seventh. The Rays went on to lose 7-6 in 11 innings.

Niemann has given up at least four runs in two of his last three starts - with Tampa Bay losing both of those outings - after going 7-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his previous 12 with the Rays winning 11 in that span.

The right-hander wasn’t sharp in his only start against the Angels on June 10, allowing five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 9-5 win.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Niemann TB vs. T. Bell Cin
13-6 Record 1-2
3.94 ERA 9.74
125 K 14
59 BB 11
1.35 WHIP 2.51


Wednesday, Aug 12