Although the Los Angeles Angels are on the verge of clinching a third straight AL West title, manager Mike Scioscia is getting a little concerned about their sudden struggles at the plate.
The Angels again try to break out of this little funk and move closer to securing a postseason berth Friday night when they host the surging Oakland Athletics.
Just over a month ago, Los Angeles (90-62) was looking like a favorite to win the World Series, but a sudden drop-off in production has the team sputtering toward the playoffs. The Angels’ magic number to clinch the West for the fifth time in six years is down to four, but they’re 17-17 since Aug. 20.
Los Angeles was winning earlier in the season with a small-ball approach but has struggled to move runners in key situations lately.
The Angels went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees and have stranded 25 runners in dropping their last two. They’re batting .239 with runners in scoring position this month after hitting a major league-best .305 in such situations over the first five months of the season.
“We went from a team that was setting the table, putting the ball in play, getting our share of hits with guys in scoring position and scoring runs, to a team that’s really been down near the bottom this month,” Scioscia said. “It’s the same cast of characters, but some guys are obviously struggling with some things and not squaring balls up as well as they can.”
Kendry Morales(notes) leads the Angels in batting average (.303), home runs (31) and RBIs (99), but he’s batting .091 with four RBIs with runners in scoring position this month after hitting .576 with 27 RBIs in those situations in August.
Los Angeles is hoping a series against the A’s can help Morales get back on track. The first baseman is batting .538 with five homers and 12 RBIs in seven games versus Oakland since the All-Star break.
Weaver has recorded a 5.40 ERA in his last two starts - both on the road - after going 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his previous three. The right-hander hopes to bounce back at Angel Stadium, where he’s 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 16 starts.
Weaver has pitched well against the A’s lately but hasn’t defeated them since Sept. 4, 2007. He’s 0-1 with a 2.83 ERA in five starts since.
While Los Angeles is scuffling down the stretch, the A’s have been one of baseball’s biggest surprises over the past three weeks, going a major league-best 14-4 since Sept. 5.
Oakland (73-80) defeated Texas 12-3 on Thursday, the fourth time in five games it scored at least eight runs.
“We’re getting guys on base and we’re getting hits when we need to,” said Eric Patterson(notes), who drove in a season-high three Thursday. “Usually when you’re winning games, it’s because you’re doing things like that.”
Gonzalez allowed three runs, two hits and five walks in 3 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 8-4 win over Cleveland, the second straight start he failed to go at least four innings.
The left-hander had a similar problem in his only career start against the Angels on Aug. 27, 2008. The A’s won 6-5 with Gonzalez giving up four runs, three hits and five walks in three innings.
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