Mike Scioscia altered his team’s starting rotation for this weekend’s critical series against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, ensuring the Los Angeles Angels’ top three pitchers would get the ball.
The Rangers don’t seem to be too intimidated.
Los Angeles (71-60) entered this series riding a six-game winning streak that had pulled the club within two of the Rangers. The Angels’ deficit was six games last Thursday after they dropped three of four to Texas (75-58) at home.
Sensing his club could ill afford another letdown against the division leader, Scioscia announced Friday that Santana (9-9, 3.17 ERA) and AL Cy Young Award hopeful Jered Weaver(notes) would get the ball on three days’ rest for the first time in their respective careers.
This move was scoffed at by Rangers manager Ron Washington, whose club had success against Santana in a 4-3 victory Aug. 17, touching him up for four runs, 10 hits and four walks in 7 2-3 innings. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA in his last four starts against Texas, which is 5-2 against pitchers starting on three days’ rest since 2003.
“We’re not afraid of Santana,” Washington said. “We’re not talking about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. We’ve faced Weaver and Santana before.”
The Rangers reached Haren for seven runs in 4 1-3 innings en route to an 11-7 win, pushing their division lead back to three games. Nelson Cruz(notes) busted out of his 4-for-27 slump by going 4 for 6 with two homers and six RBIs and David Murphy(notes) hit a grand slam.
“I think to this point in the season, every game from here on out is going to be our biggest game of the year,” Murphy said. “We definitely showed up and took a few days of frustration out and played a great game. It’s going to be a battle all weekend long, but we did a great job of starting the series off right.”
Those two could be in line for another big game, as Moreland hit a solo homer off Santana last week, and Young is a .361 lifetime hitter against him.
Although Santana threw 115 pitches in eight innings Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, giving up four runs and nine hits without getting a decision in a 5-4 victory, the Angels aren’t concerned about bringing him or Weaver back on short rest.
“Looking at the last few weeks how these guys have been bouncing back from their starts, there’s zero doubt in my mind and zero doubt in their minds going into this,” pitching coach Mike Butcher said.
The Rangers will go with C.J. Wilson(notes) (13-5, 3.08), who opposed Santana in Anaheim last week, yielding two runs and five hits in seven innings to earn the win. He improved to 4-2 with a 1.57 ERA in his last eight starts in the series.
Wilson has a 0.92 ERA in his last three starts - all wins. The left-hander scattered four singles and two walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-0 victory over Boston on Monday.