The Los Angeles Angels' continued slide has been marked by a lack of offense in the past three games, and Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez looms in their next contest.
Hernandez, though, has struggled in two of his last three starts and has been inconsistent against the Angels in his career, a pair of trends he'll look to end Friday night in Seattle.
The Angels (55-71) dropped their fourth straight Wednesday, 3-1 to Cleveland to give them a 7-19 mark in their last 26. Los Angeles' injury-ravaged lineup managed four runs as the club was swept in three games by the Indians.
The absence of All-Star outfielder Mike Trout for the past three contests due to tightness in his right hamstring certainly hasn't helped, nor has the loss of Albert Pujols for the balance of his disappointing season. Trout is unlikely to return Friday.
"You try to get depth in your lineup and right now we're thin. But the guys are playing hard,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've got to keep plugging away. It's the only thing we can do. Some of these guys are trying to get some experience.''
The Angels are 16 games under .500 this late in the season for the first time since 1999, the year before Scioscia became manager.
Along with the problems at the plate, Los Angeles' bullpen has struggled badly of late, posting a 7.50 ERA in the past 10 games.
One of the few recent bright spots has been Josh Hamilton, who despite a tough first season with the Angels is batting .321 with three home runs and nine RBIs in his last 13 contests. He's been even better on the road, posting a .400 average with 14 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.
He's had little success against Hernandez (12-6, 2.62 ERA), going 8 for 56 (.143) with 17 strikeouts, though four of the hits were for extra bases. The Seattle right-hander, though, hasn't been his consistently dominant self of late, allowing 11 runs over 10 innings in two of his last three outings.
Hernandez bounced back from a rough start with eight innings of four-hit ball to beat Milwaukee 2-0 on Aug. 11, but he struggled again Saturday, giving up five runs and five walks - his most since 2011 - in five innings of a 15-3 loss to Texas.
While he went eight innings to beat Los Angeles 6-0 on July 13, he's 8-12 with a 3.97 ERA in 33 career matchups and had posted a 6.87 ERA in three starts against the Angels prior to the latest one.
Hernandez will be opposed by Garrett Richards (3-5, 4.24), who entered Saturday's game against Houston with a 2.42 ERA over a four-start stretch. He was then knocked around for five runs and career-worst 12 hits in six innings in a 6-5, 10-inning win. The right-hander allowed five runs in seven-plus innings of a 6-0 road loss to the Mariners on April 25.
Seattle (59-67) has won four of six, scoring 12 runs in the past two games.
"We're playing a lot of playoff teams down the stretch - a lot of teams that are first or second in their division - and I think it's big for us because we get to see how we stack up right next to them," infielder Brad Miller told the team's official website after Wednesday's 5-3 victory over Oakland. "Our goal is the same. We're trying to win games and win series."