The Angels look to continue their strong play against the Rangers when the AL West rivals open a four-game series on Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Los Angeles (19-16) had been held to three or fewer runs in six of its previous seven games before beating the Cleveland Indians 8-0 on Thursday to take the three-game set. The Angels scored their most runs since an 11-3 win on April 26 and tied their largest margin of victory this season.
“We’re slumping a little bit,” said Los Angeles starter Kelvim Escobar, who pitched a seven-hitter. “We have some trouble scoring runs. That’s nice to see the team score eight runs. Hopefully, we can do that more consistently.”
A day after hitting the go-head homer in the Angels’ 3-2 win, Gary Matthews Jr. went deep again with a three-run homer in a five-run third inning. The center fielder, who is 5-for-10 against Texas this season, will be returning to the park where he spent the last three seasons before signing a five-year, $50 million contract with Los Angeles in the offseason.
“I’m sure there will be some emotions involved, but I’ll do what I’ve always done: prepare myself to play the game and help my team any way I can,” Mathews told the Angels’ official Web site.
The division-leading Angels had no problem scoring runs in a three-game season-opening sweep of the Rangers (14-20). They outscored Texas 17-7 while batting .337, and the pitching staff held the Rangers to a .161 batting average.
Texas’ lineup broke out Thursday, though, setting season-highs for runs and hits (16) in a 14-2 rout of the New York Yankees. Mark Teixeira had four hits, including three doubles, and three RBIs while pinch-hitter Victor Diaz hit his first career grand slam for the Rangers, who scored 10 runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Despite scoring more than three runs for only the third time in the last 11 games, the Rangers dropped the three-game series.
“We need to get our offense rolling or it’s going to be a long season,” said Teixeira, who is batting .455 with eight doubles, two homers and nine RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.
Teixeira is batting .447 (17-for-38) lifetime against John Lackey (4-3, 2.60 ERA), who will take the ball for Los Angeles on Friday. The right-hander is 7-8 with a 5.38 ERA in 20 career starts versus the Rangers, but held them to an unearned run and four hits over five innings in a 4-1 victory on April 2.
He is coming off a shaky start on Saturday, though, when he allowed a season-high four runs and eight hits over eight innings in a 6-3 defeat to the Chicago White Sox. Lackey, a Texas native, walked two and struck out a season-best eight in his longest outing of the season.
Texas will counter with Vicente Padilla (1-4, 4.93), who is coming off his first win of 2007. The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings of an 11-4 win over Toronto on Saturday.
He finally got some run support after the Rangers had scored just 10 runs in his previous six starts. Padilla is 3-1 with a 4.79 ERA in seven lifetime appearances versus Los Angeles.
Matthews is 5-for-8 during his career against Padilla, while Vladimir Guerrero is batting .412 (14-for-34) with three homers and two doubles. They’ll try to continue that play for the Angels, who are opening a seven-game road trip.
Los Angeles is just 5-10 on the road.
Texas shortstop Michael Young left Wednesday’s contest because of tightness in his right hamstring and missed Thursday’s game, but manager Ron Washington expects to have him in the lineup for this contest.