American League Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, July 27th
(All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Rays (51-48) at LA Angels of Anaheim (54-45), 10:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tampa Bay - Alex Cobb (4-7, 5.05)
LA Angels - Dan Haren (7-8, 4.76)
(Sports Network) - After getting a critical three-city road trip off to a good
start, the Tampa Bay Rays head to the West Coast for the first of three
meetings with the playoff-contending Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim beginning
tonight at Angel Stadium.
The Rays won the first two tests of this nine-game trek, which also includes a
stop in Oakland to battle the surging Athletics, by outscoring fellow American
League East member Baltimore by a 13-2 score. Tampa Bay couldn't complete the
sweep, however, with the Orioles using a five-run fifth inning to come up with
a 6-2 victory on Thursday.
James Shields, who's been rumored to be a target of the Angels leading up to
next week's trade deadline, struck out 10 Baltimore hitters in a six-inning
stint but faltered in the fifth, surrendering three hits, two walks and
hitting a batter during the fateful frame. The big blow was a bases-loaded
double by Chris Davis that plated three runners and gave the O's a 5-0
"It came down to two hits and me walking too many guys," Shields, who issued a
season-high five free passes on the afternoon, told MLB.com. "I felt I was
executing my pitches for the most part all day, besides the walks."
Sam Fuld was the lone hitting star for Tampa Bay, collecting three hits in
four at-bats and driving in both Rays runs with a seventh-inning double.
Despite the loss, the Rays enter tonight's tilt just 2 1/2 games back in the
race for the AL's two Wild Card berths. The Angels are currently atop those
standings and trail first-place Texas by five games in the AL West.
Tampa Bay may be able to gain some ground if their recent success in this
series holds true. The Rays have topped Anaheim six consecutive times,
sweeping a three-game set at the Big A in June of last season and also taking
all three matchups between the clubs at Tropicana Field from Apr. 24-26.
They'll face a challenge this evening, however, from Dan Haren, who was sharp
in his return from the disabled list this past Sunday and owns a 6-3 record
with a 2.69 earned run average over 11 lifetime starts against Tampa.
Haren was sent to the DL for the first time in his career with a back strain
and was sidelined nearly three weeks. He showed little effect from the layoff,
though, after holding Texas' potent lineup to two runs and only three hits
through six innings to help the Angels post a 7-4 win.
The three-time All-Star had been struggling mightily prior to being shelved,
recording an ugly 8.67 ERA and allowing a .364 batting average in five starts
that preceded his being placed on the DL.
Anaheim has gone 4-2 thus far on a nine-game homestand and was last in action
on Wednesday, when the Angels banged out 17 hits and three homers in an 11-6
verdict over Kansas City that enabled ace Jered Weaver to move to 13-1 on the
Torii Hunter led the charge with a 4-for-5, three-RBI performance at the plate
that included a solo home run. Mike Trout added a two-run shot later on and
finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored, while Alberto Callaspo ended with
three hits and an RBI.
Weaver lasted just five innings and threw 101 pitches, but the All-Star hurler
struck out eight Royals and yielded two runs on only three hits while
benefiting from an early 8-0 lead after the first four frames.
"It was the offense that came through today," Weaver said afterward. "It took
a little of the pressure off me. It's fun to see the guys swinging the bats
the way they do."
Anaheim was able to put up runs at well despite first baseman Albert Pujols
sitting out the contest with a sore elbow. The three-time National League MVP
was hit by a pitch in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Royals, but x-rays came up
negative and he's expected to be back in the lineup tonight.
The Angels will try to continue their hot hitting this evening against
struggling Tampa starter Alex Cobb, who's 2-7 with a 5.72 ERA over his last
nine starts and hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in either of his past
Cobb exited after only two innings in a loss to Seattle on Saturday after
taking a line drive off his right shin, permitting two runs before departing.
He was removed for ineffectiveness in his prior start, getting tagged for
three runs (2 earned) and walking five through 3 1/3 frames against Cleveland
on July 16.
The 24-year-old did go 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in two matchups with the Angels
last season, including an effort in Anaheim in which he fired 6 1/3 innings of
one-run ball to earn his first major league win.
07/27 11:00:24 ET