Tonight begins a key 4 game series for the AL West leaders against the now third place LA Angels of Anaheim at the Ballpark in Arlington. After being shut down in back to back games at the big A, the Angels look to get their offense back on track. Los Angeles (55-47) scored six or more runs three times while winning four of five before being shut out in two straight games by Tampa Bay over the weekend allowing Oakland to move into second place. The Angels were held to nine hits in those defeats, including four during Sunday's 2-0 loss that spoiled Zack Greinke's Los Angeles debut.
The Angels have not been shut out in three straight games since June 24-26, 1978, and hope Mike Trout returns after missing the finale because of a knee injury suffered in Saturday's 3-0 defeat. Trout, who turns 21 on Aug. 7, is batting an AL-best .350 with 16 homers, 49 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. He's hit .441 (15 for 34) to help the Angels go 5-4 against Texas (59-41) in 2012. Though the Angels lead the season series, they allowed 25 runs while dropping two of three at Texas in May.
Saying that Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 ERA), who allowed six runs and three homers in 1 2-3 innings of a 9-2 home loss to the Rangers in his last outing July 21 needs a strong performance to remain in the Angels' rotation is clearly an understatement. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 9.41 ERA in five starts since beating Arizona on June 16, and 1-1 with an 11.00 ERA in his last four road starts. While stars Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young are each hitting .360 or better versus Santana, Josh Hamilton has batted .212 (7 for 33) against him. Mired in a 1-for-21 slump, Hamilton is batting .115 (7 for 61) with 20 strikeouts in his last 17 games overall.
Texas avoided a three-game sweep by Chicago with a 2-0 win Sunday. Scott Feldman pitched eight strong innings and David Murphy had three hits for the Rangers, who have not won consecutive games since July 15-17. Texas' Roy Oswalt (3-1, 5.22) makes his first start in 12 days and first career appearance against the Angels in the opener. The right-hander missed his last start because of tightness in his back but appears ready to give it a go Monday. Oswalt had gotten off to a rough start but seems to be turning things around over his last few appearances while picking up significant run support.
With temperatures expected above 100 degrees by gametime combined with the high total supported by both pitchers overall ERA this evening, we are not suprised if a slugfest is in the cards down south. The Angels are hitting nearly .270 collectively and with Trout amongst the candidates for AL MVP, this offense is fierce when all are contibuting. Mark Trumbo (.304 27 69) leads the team far and away in production as well as amongst the leaders in the AL. After a slow start for the first month and a half, Albert Pujols (.277 18 63) has seen his production swell well past respectability on his way to more consistent career averages. Torii Hunter (.281 11 44) has been thorns in many opposing pitcher's sides and Kendry Morales (.269 9 39) though not 100% after that freak home plate injury several seasons back could cause damage that could point Santana towards the bullpen after the night is over and for possibly longer. While the Rangers lead the league in batting (.276), their power and production has dropped to 7th once near the top in the early going. Amidst Hamilton's sturggles (.282 28 83) as one of the key reasons, sluggers like Adrian Beltre (.312 18 61) leads Texas in hitting and has more than made up the slack. Mike Napoli (.227 16 37) and Nelson Cruz (.262 14 60) have also been streaky at times but can go on unprecedented tears when the Rangers offense is clicking. Ian Kinsler (.274 11 47) continues to do his part at the top of the lineup and Elvis Andrus (.295 2 39) gives the club a much needed boost with consistency at the plate as well as smallball speed on the basepath. We should definitely see some fireworks tonight. Best of luck however you play!