Even though the Los Angeles Angels have already clinched their fourth AL West title in five years, they continue to dominate division opponents.
Looking to continue building momentum for their playoff run, the Angels aim to hand the stumbling Seattle Mariners a 12th straight loss on Monday night as the teams open a four-game set at Safeco Field.
Los Angeles (96-59) secured its fifth postseason appearance in seven years on Sept. 10. The Angels have since won eight of 10 contests - all against AL West foes - and capped a three-game sweep at Texas with a 7-3 victory on Sunday.
Los Angeles owns a 3 1/2-game advantage on AL East-leading Tampa Bay in the race for the league’s best record and home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Angels also have a 21 1/2-game lead over second-place Texas in the West. They are trying to become the first AL team to secure a division by 20 games over its nearest competitor since Cleveland in 1999.
“It’s just like a pickup basketball game,” center fielder Torii Hunter told the Angels’ official Web site. “You don’t get paid to play it, but you still play the whole time you’re out there and you play to win. We’re still playing, and we want to win.”
Los Angeles has seven games left to lock up the first 100-win season in franchise history, and could move closer to that goal with a sweep of last-place Seattle (57-98).
The Angels are 11-4 versus the Mariners this season, winning eight of the last nine matchups after completing a four-game home sweep from Sept. 11-14.
Ervin Santana (15-6, 3.33 ERA) is 5-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 11 career starts against Seattle, and pitched the finale of the most recent series. He allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings despite leaving without a decision in that 4-3 victory.
The right-hander hasn’t started since that outing, but is 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts after at least six days of rest.
Meanwhile, Seattle returns to Safeco Field for its final seven-game homestand after completing an 0-11 road trip with a 5-3 loss to Oakland on Sunday.
It was the third winless trip of at least 10 games in franchise history.
“This is as difficult a time I have ever been through,” left fielder Raul Ibanez told the Mariners’ official Web site. “Anytime you go 0-and-11, it’s miserable.”
The Mariners are mired in their longest skid since a 14-game slide Sept. 2-18, 1992, and are two defeats from their first 100-loss season since 1983.
Looking to end their struggles, Seattle hands the ball to Ryan Rowland-Smith (4-2, 3.53) as he tries for his first win in four starts.
The left-hander hasn’t received a decision in his last three outings, compiling a 3.38 ERA in that span. On Wednesday, he held Kansas City to a run and three hits over six innings of the Mariners’ 5-2 road loss.
Rowland-Smith has a 4.05 ERA in seven all-time appearances versus the Angels. In his only start against them, he allowed three runs and four hits over 6 1-3 innings, but didn’t factor into the decision of a 5-3 road defeat on Sept. 12.
Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki has batted .229 (16-for-70) during the season series against the Angels, but has gone 21-for-59 (.356) during his current 14-game hitting streak.
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