The Los Angeles Angels were supposed to be challenged by the Seattle Mariners in the AL West this season – but anyone who’s been paying attention to the baseball odds on the struggling M’s over the first two months knows that hasn’t come to pass. Los Angeles does have another team to contend with in the division – and they’ll battle with them this weekend.
First, though, the Angels decided to add to the Mariners’ woes by handily sweeping them in a three-game series earlier in the week. Los Angeles’ pitching performed nicely in that set – starters Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver all managed to earn victories, while closer Francisco Rodriguez slammed the door shut with three saves.
And Los Angeles got those wins despite the absence of outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who hasn’t played since June 1 because of a sore knee. Guerrero hasn’t had a blazing start to the campaign (.249 average, seven home runs, 28 RBI), but his presence in the middle of the lineup still worries opposing pitchers. Guerrero is still just listed as day-to-day by the team, and they’re hoping he can avoid the DL and return to action on Friday.
That sweep of the Mariners made it five straight wins for the Angels, who are 7-3 over their past 10 games. Los Angeles will be looking to extend that streak on Friday night when they open their series in Oakland. And the Athletics? They’ve won four games in a row, and they’ll be looking to cut into the Angels’ division lead (currently at 3.5 games).
Ace righthander John Lackey gets the start for Los Angeles on Friday. Lackey has been great since returning from the DL; he’s 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA over four starts. Opposing Lackey will be A’s righthander Joe Blanton, who has a respectable ERA (4.27) but lots of losses (a 3-7 record). Blanton was knocked around for six earned runs on 10 hits over six innings last time out vs. the Rangers, and he only has one victory since April 27.
Saturday sees the Angels’ Jon Garland (5-3, 3.99 ERA) taking on the Athletics’ Greg Smith (3-4, 3.56 ERA), while Sunday’s series finale has Los Angeles’ Ervin Santana (8-2, 3.02 ERA) matched up against Oakland’s Rich Harden (3-0, 2.61 ERA). Harden has pitched very well in four of his five outings since returning from his latest stint on the DL.
If Guerrero is forced to miss more time the Angels will be hoping that team RBI leader Casey Kotchman can get back into a groove; Kotchman has only driven in two runs over the past 10 games. Maicer Izturis had six hits in the three games against the M’s.