Aug 21, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta (17) celebrates with left fielder Josh Hamilton (32), pitcher Jason Grilli (39) and pitcher Matt Shoemaker (52) after defeating the Boston Red Sox 2-0 at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Angels, A’s Begin Pivotal Series for AL West Lead

Oakland. Not exactly the Los Angeles Angels’ favorite place to play over the last few years. They’ve lost eight of nine at O.co Coliseum, dating back to 2013, and came up empty in a three-game set three months ago.

The difference between now and then is that Los Angeles leads their division rival by two games for the league’s best mark this time around.

The A’s lack confidence. They’re a shell of the near-unstoppable team that dominated the Majors through the All-Star break. Since Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline sendoff to Boston, they’ve lacked “umph” in the heart of their order.

The Angels, meanwhile, have found inspiration in unexpected places. Kole Calhoun carries a four-game hitting streak into Friday night’s series opener. The right fielder hasn’t recorded an OPS below .800 in any month since may. He’s becoming the unconventional leadoff hitter Mike Scioscia envisioned.

Garrett Richards’ season-ending knee injury dealt a blow to an already waning starting rotation. Matt Shoemaker softened the blow win a stellar outing in Boston last night. The right-hander tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings and didn’t allow a hit until the seventh.

One can only wonder where the Halos would be without Shoemaker, a last-second addition to the opening day roster.

The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times before the AL West crown is decided. To overcome the defending-division champs, the Halos will need anyone not named Calhoun and Shoemaker to step up.

Pitching Matchup Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.46 ERA) vs. Sonny Gray (12-7, 2.99 ERA)

Hector Santiago has transformed into a viable pitcher since being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.

Three loses in a row doesn’t do justice to the left-hander. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs since July 5 but hasn’t gotten much run support. The Angels scored more than four runs in just three of his outings in that span.

Santiago is coming of a solid six inning start in Texas where he scattered four hits and yielded just one run. Unfortunately, he didn’t garner a decision. He’s held similar success against Oakland this season, giving up one run over the last 13 innings.

Santiago looks for his first career win by the bay after losing starts in consecutive seasons with Chicago.

Sonny Gray is looking for his first win this month. He’s 0-4 with a 4.94 ERA in four starts; including a four-run, eight-hit outing in Atlanta last Saturday.

Still, the young ace finds a way to dominate AL West teams. He is 8-1 with a 2.00 ERA within the division and holds a 2.45 ERA against the Halos.

Walk offs:

  1. Coco Crisp is the only Athletic with a home run off Santiago.
  2. The last time both teams met Oakland left Anaheim with a 3 ½ game lead.
  3. Mike Trout hasn’t homered since Aug. 10 against the Red Sox.

TV: 7:05 p.m. PT, Fox Sports West, CSNCA

Radio: KLAA 830, 95.7 The Game

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Tags: Hector Santiago Los Angeles Angels

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