Angels-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

In the midst of two AL postseason races, the Tampa Bay Rays want to keep from ending August the same way they started it.

The Rays look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss and prevent the visiting Los Angeles Angels from recording their fifth straight victory Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay (74-56) opened the month losing seven of nine, then won eight of 10 before its current three-game slide. One night after being blown out 11-1 at Kansas City, the Rays wasted a four-run lead in Tuesday's 6-5 loss to Los Angeles (59-71).

They led 5-1 after six innings and by a run in the ninth when Erick Aybar hit a two-run double off closer Fernando Rodney. The Rays have blown 15 leads in the seventh inning or later this year, losing 12 of those contests.

"To permit that many runs late, we've done that way too many times," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to stop doing that."

Rodney has the second-most blown saves in the majors with eight, including three this month.

The loss dropped the Rays 2 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the East, and left them one-half game ahead of Oakland for the top wild-card spot.

They'll look for Chris Archer (7-5, 2.93 ERA) to provide a third consecutive solid start, having allowed three runs and eight hits in 14 innings over the last two.

The right-hander ended a four-start winless streak with seven strong innings in a 7-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday.

"Confidence comes with success, and I've had a little of that," Archer told the Rays' official website. "I'm executing pitches better."

This will be the rookie's first game against the Angels, who have averaged 5.0 runs during a four-game winning streak that followed a four-game skid in which they scored nine.

Prior to Tuesday, Los Angeles had lost six straight and 12 of 13 to the Rays.

"We score runs and we've got a lot of guys that are hungry and want to do some damage in these last few weeks of the season," pitcher C.J. Wilson said. "Tampa Bay's on their way to playoffs, possibly, and if we can cause any disruptions, that's really the only thing we can do right now."

Aybar, who drove in four runs Tuesday, is 4 for 9 in the last two games after an 0-for-12 slump. He's 8 for 16 with six RBIs in his last four versus Tampa Bay.

The Angels hand the ball to Garrett Richards (4-5, 3.95), who allowed four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 2-0 victory at Seattle on Friday.

"I didn't have my sharpest stuff in the beginning and as the game went on I got a feel for the breaking ball and the extension on my fastball," said Richards, 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts since replacing Joe Blanton in the rotation. "I was just filling up the zone and throwing quality strikes and going right at guys."

This will be his first appearance against the Rays.

With three hits and three RBIs on Tuesday, Tampa Bay catcher Jose Molina is 6 for 10 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs in his last three games against the Angels.