Facing the Texas Rangers seven times in a 10-game stretch seemed like an ideal chance for the Los Angeles Angels to tighten the AL West race. So far, it’s only allowed the Rangers to expand their season-high lead.
The Rangers can add to their ample cushion Saturday night when they attempt to extend their home winning streak against the slumping Angels to five.
Texas (57-40) leads the West by seven games on second-place Los Angeles (51-48) for its largest advantage since winning the division by eight games in 1999.
The Angels hoped to begin cutting into Texas’ lead, but the Rangers have won the first two of this four-game series behind superb pitching. They won 1-0 Friday as C.J. Wilson(notes) scattered four hits in eight innings before Neftali Feliz(notes) threw a perfect ninth for his AL-leading 27th save while converting his 18th chance in a row.
The Rangers have won 10 of 13 at home against the Angels and all four there this year while holding them to a .178 batting average in a hitter-friendly stadium.
Los Angeles has dropped four of five overall, totaling nine runs with a .217 average in the losses.
“If I catch one guy saying that, that we have no chance, then we’re fighting,” said Hunter, who is 0 for 7 in the series. “That’s not professional sports, period. If you say that, you probably shouldn’t be here. I don’t care if they’re 20 games up, I’d never say that.”
Ervin Santana(notes) (8-7, 3.63 ERA) is used to seeing the Angels struggle at the plate. The right-hander has received an average of 7.81 runs of support in 10 starts that resulted in Los Angeles victories, while the lineup has provided him with 0.77 runs per game in his other nine outings.
That trend continued Sunday, as he allowed one run and three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 2-1, 10-inning defeat to Seattle.
“I hate that we don’t come through for that guy and get runs, because he’s been pitching his butt off,” Hunter said.
Santana is 3-4 with an 8.05 ERA in nine road meetings versus the Rangers, but dominated them at home Sept. 28 by throwing a seven-hitter in an 11-0 victory.
Scott Feldman(notes) (5-8, 5.48) may be an unlikely candidate to give the Rangers another strong performance on the mound as he tries to end a five-start winless streak. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.37 ERA in that stretch, including a 6-5 loss at Anaheim on June 29, during which he gave up five runs in 5 2-3 innings.
He’s been impressive against the Angels at home, going 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts - all Texas wins.
Feldman, however, is coming off one of his worst performances of the season. He was tagged for five runs and seven hits, including a career high-tying three homers while throwing 86 pitches over five innings of an 8-6, 14-inning win at Detroit on Monday.
Michael Young(notes) has connected for first-inning solo homers in the first two games of this set. The third baseman has a .485 average with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 16 home meetings with the Angels.
He’s hitting .413 with two homers off Santana.