As the Chicago White Sox cling to their lead in the AL Central, the Los Angeles Angels don't have much room for error if they want to remain a serious postseason contender.
The White Sox and Angels each look to avoid a third consecutive loss Friday night in Anaheim.
Chicago (81-68) was riding a five-game winning streak before it lost 3-0 at Kansas City on Wednesday then blew an early three-run lead en route to a 4-3 defeat to the Royals on Thursday. Despite their latest result, the White Sox remain two games ahead of Detroit in the Central.
"If you keep shooting yourself in the foot it's going to come back to bite you,'' said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, whose team had a runner thrown out at the plate and picked off at third base.
The White Sox hope first baseman Paul Konerko returns to the lineup after he missed Thursday's contest with a sore back. Konerko has hit .257 since his average peaked at .399 on May 27, but he's 8 for 20 (.400) against the Angels (81-69) this season.
Chicago, which split a brief two-game set in Anaheim in May, has won three of five against Los Angeles. Losers in six of 10 after winning 15 of 18, the Angels are 4 1/2 games back of Oakland and Baltimore for the final wild-card berth.
"The good thing is that we have two teams we could catch," said Los Angeles' Zack Greinke, who allowed one run over eight innings Thursday. "The toughest thing for us is that we're playing tough teams right now. I know it won't be easy, but it's definitely possible.''
Chicago's Alex Rios is batting .389 (7 for 18) with two homers and four RBIs in his last four games against the Angels, and .417 (15 for 36) in his last 10 overall.
Teammate Jake Peavy (11-11, 3.26 ERA) would like to stop his struggles against the Angels when he takes the mound in the opener. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four starts versus Los Angeles.
Peavy, however, is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA this month. He allowed two runs, four hits and struck out six in six innings of a 9-2 win at Minnesota on Sunday.
Albert Pujols is 10 for 25 (.400) with three home runs versus Peavy, and batting .318 (7 for 22) with four homers and seven RBIs against the White Sox in 2012.
Pujols had one of Los Angeles' five hits during Thursday's 3-1 home loss to Texas. Teammate Torii Hunter went 0 for 4, but is batting .386 with 19 RBIs in his last 21 games. He's 5 for 10 with a double and a triple versus Peavy.
Scheduled Los Angeles starter Ervin Santana (8-12, 5.08) is making his first start since he allowed an earned run in six innings and took a batted ball off his forearm during a 4-1 loss to Oakland on Sept. 12. The right-hander, who has thrown two bullpen sessions since his last start, is 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last six outings.
"I feel more energized and have more desire to win now than ever because time's running out," Santana told the Angels' official website.
Though he's 0-2 in his last four starts versus the White Sox, Santana has posted a 3.86 ERA during that span. He allowed three runs, two homers and hit two batters over six innings of a 6-5, 10-inning win at Chicago on Aug. 4.