Saunders will try to continue his momentum Sunday when the Angles conclude the regular season against the last-place Oakland Athletics.
The Angels (96-65) have won a franchise-record three consecutive division titles, and Saunders (15-7, 4.62 ERA) has been a key contributor in the last two.
The left-hander had a breakout season last year, going 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA and getting named to his first All-Star game. He failed to translate that success into the playoffs, however, and allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-4, 12-inning win at Boston in Game 3 of the AL division series on Oct. 5. The Angels were eliminated the following day, and for the second consecutive season by the Red Sox.
Los Angeles will face Boston again in the opening round of this year’s playoffs.
Saunders looks to help the Angels enter the postseason in strong fashion after they defeated Oakland 4-2 on Saturday for their sixth win in seven games following a four-game slide.
“We had such a good winning attitude in July and August where we felt if we were down early or whatever the situation was, we felt like we were going to come back and win,” third baseman Robb Quinlan(notes) said. “So it’s always good to get that attitude back. Hopefully it carries over to the playoffs.”
Saunders has been outstanding of late, posting a 6-0 mark with a 2.44 ERA in seven starts. He kept that run intact with a 7-4 win over the A’s last Sunday, allowing three runs in six innings.
He’s 8-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 starts against the division rivals, going 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four games at Oakland.
The A’s are looking to end the season on a positive note and snap a six-game losing streak. They’re out of the playoffs for a third consecutive season and are assured of finishing last in the West for the first time since 1998.
“It’s getting late and it’s tough to bring focus for the last few games,” center fielder Rajai Davis(notes) said. “That’s the challenge when you know as a team you aren’t going to the playoffs. We haven’t hit the ball as well as when we were winning.”
The A’s will give the ball to Edgar Gonzalez (0-4, 5.51), who is searching for his first win in nearly 19 months.
The right-hander is 0-6 with a 5.94 ERA in 39 games - eight starts - since getting his last win with Arizona on April 24, 2008.
Gonzalez’s win drought continued Sunday when he took the loss opposite Saunders while allowing five runs and seven hits, including two homers, in five innings. He’s 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA in his last five games - four starts - but has mostly been used out of the bullpen since joining the A’s prior to the start of the season.
Gonzalez is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in three games - one start - against the Angels.