(AP) — The Los Angeles Angels finally seem to have started taking advantage of the tear Albert Pujols has been on lately.
With the veteran slugger in position for another milestone, the Angels look to continue their recent success against the Oakland Athletics in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
Pujols is hitting .373 with nine homers, 15 RBIs and 13 runs over the past 13 games, a stretch that has bumped his season batting average 32 points to .267.
“I’m catching more breaks, I guess,” Pujols said. “I’ve been swinging the bat well all year long and if you stay with that approach, sooner or later they’re going to fall. I’m not going out there and trying to hit a home run every time, just trying to put on a good swing and let the rest take care of itself.”
Pujols had a two-run shot among his two hits and Los Angeles (30-30) rallied for a 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday – only its second win in eight games.
His hot hitting is now coinciding with some history. Pujols’ homer against the Rays marked the 537th of his career – moving him past Mickey Mantle for 16th all-time – and his 1,635 RBIs are one shy of tying Ernie Banks for 29th on that list.
Pujols has a .325 average against the A’s (25-37) in Anaheim and he’s 7 for 16 (.438) with a home run off scheduled starter Jesse Chavez.
Los Angeles has won 11 of its last 15 against Oakland, which ended a four-game skid with Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Texas before capping the three-game set with a 7-0 victory.
Chavez (2-6, 2.51 ERA) would appreciate a similar offensive effort since he’s getting an average of 1.39 runs of support this season – the lowest in the majors by over a run.
He’s been backed by five total runs while losing four of five road starts despite a 3.48 ERA. The venue hasn’t made a difference in four career starts against the Angels, with the right-hander going 0-3 with a 3.00 ERA with two total runs of support prior to receiving no runs while losing both meetings this season.
Chavez only had himself to blame Saturday, giving up four runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 4-2 loss at Boston after going 16 innings without allowing an earned run while splitting his previous two starts.
“The only small difference I saw was he was a little bit up,” catcher Stephen Vogt told MLB’s official website. “Typically, if he makes a mistake over the plate, it’s down, and he made a couple out and over the plate that he doesn’t do, so that was a little different. But if you go back and watch, he still made some good pitches.”
Los Angeles is turning to Hector Santiago (4-3, 2.55), who’s 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA in six career starts against the A’s. The left-hander yielded one run and three hits with a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings of a 14-1 home victory April 21.
Santiago was knocked around in his most recent start June 3, surrendering five runs and two homers while hitting two batters in five innings of a 6-5 loss in 10 to Tampa Bay.
He allowed one of two inherited runners to score in 3 2-3 innings of relief in Saturday’s 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
Santiago has allowed Josh Reddick to go 4 for 9 off him. The right fielder is 9 for 18 with one homer and three doubles in five games and is 9 for 19 (.474) in his last five meetings with Los Angeles.
Updated June 12, 2015