Although the Los Angeles Angels are suddenly rolling, they haven't had to face particularly tough starting pitching during their four-game run.
That will change Saturday as they try to extend their longest winning streak of the season against the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez, who has completely overwhelmed the Angels of late.
After floundering for much of the first two months, Los Angeles (22-25) is within three games of .500 for the first time since it was 6-9 on April 21. Albert Pujols is leading the charge, having hit three of his season's six homers during the winning streak.
"He's starting to come to life," manager Mike Scioscia said.
The nine-time All-Star hit a three-run shot Friday in Seattle to help the Angels roar back from a 4-0 deficit en route to a 6-4 victory. Los Angeles completed the comeback with a three-run ninth inning as pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick broke a tie with a two-run single off struggling closer Brandon League.
"Hopefully a couple of months from now we can point back to the things we did right and we can point back on a night like (Friday)," Scioscia said. "It's a good comeback win."
Pujols is batting .400 with seven RBIs during the winning streak, and the Angels have taken advantage of starting pitchers Blake Beavan and Jason Vargas in the first two games against the Mariners (21-27) after squaring off against rookies Jarrod Parker and Graham Godfrey in their final two games in Oakland.
Going up against Hernandez (4-3, 2.80 ERA) likely won't be as easy.
Pujols has never faced Hernandez, and Los Angeles is hoping the three-time NL MVP can help it end its woes against the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner.
This will be Hernandez's first start of the season against the Angels after going 2-1 with a 1.41 ERA in four outings against them last year. The right-hander posted a 0.72 WHIP and struck out 34 in 32 innings.
He is coming off a strong performance Monday against Texas, yielding one run and six hits while striking out seven in eight innings of a 6-1 victory. Hernandez had posted an 8.71 ERA in back-to-back losses in New York and Cleveland in his previous two outings.
Excluding those blemishes, Hernandez has a 0.69 ERA in his other five starts since April 19.
"We're so confident when he's up there, especially when we get runs early for him, we're like, 'We're in the driver's seat right now,'" second baseman Dustin Ackley told the Mariners' official website.
Since the start of last season, Seattle is 16-2 when backing its ace with at least three runs of support, but it hasn't managed to reach that mark in Hernandez's last 10 starts against the Angels. The Mariners have lost seven of those games.
Seattle, which has combined for 10 runs in its last four contests, could again have trouble offensively against Jerome Williams (4-2, 3.74), who has a 1.95 ERA in his last five starts.
The righty wasn't particularly sharp Monday against Oakland, however, yielding five hits, five walks and hitting a batter in 6 1-3 innings. Despite his struggles he only allowed two runs, but the damage was done as he suffered a 2-1 loss, snapping his three-start winning streak.
Williams posted a 3.00 ERA in winning his only two career starts against Seattle last season, and he's limited Ichiro Suzuki to one single in seven at-bats.
Suzuki is 2 for 12 in the last three games after batting .381 during a five-game hitting streak.
- Felix Hernandez
- Seattle Mariners
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles
- Albert Pujols