The Los Angeles Angels made it clear on Friday that they were shooting for the playoffs this season and are now gunning for their third straight win and the fifth in the last six games as they play the second of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Angel Stadium.
Now 10 games over .500 and within four games of Texas for first place in the American League West, the Angels pulled the trigger on a deal that brought them 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke yesterday, in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and a pair of Double-A pitchers - Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg.
"It should be fun. They've got a great team," Greinke said of his new club. "There's definitely a lot of talent there, great players good pitching. The pitching staff will be pretty incredible."
While the Angels were adding more fire power to their pitching staff, the team on the field was putting together another solid outing as it kicked off the series with Tampa Bay with a 3-1 victory, their first in four attempts versus the Rays in 2012.
The hosts used a total of four pitchers to shut down Tampa Bay, with starter Dan Haren picking up the win to even his record at 8-8. Haren allowed just the one run on five hits and a walk, striking out six over six innings of action. With a perfect ninth, Ernesto Frieri was credited with his 12th save of the campaign.
On offense, Albert Pujols continued his resurgence with three hits and a couple of RBI and both Torri Hunter and Bobby Wilson contributed with two hits apiece as well. Rookie phenom Mike Trout registered one hit and a run scored as he remained the top hitter in the AL with a .354 average.
Of the six hits logged by the Rays, half were posted by Jeff Keppinger who hit a solo home run in the top of the second inning to account for his team's lone run.
Alex Cobb was saddled with the loss as he permitted three runs on eight hits, striking out three, through seven innings of work for the visitors.
"We have to do better. We're just not hitting," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his team's efforts.
With the defeat, its second in a row, Tampa Bay is now 9 1/2 games out of first and in third place in the AL East.
Seeking his first victory in more than a month, C.J. Wilson will take the hill tonight. The left-hander, who still has one of the better ERAs among starting pitchers in the American League, got off to a 9-4 start to 2012 and had his ERA at the time settled in at a mere 2.33.
However, Wilson has hit a number of bumps in the road of late. Granted, the Angels have won two of his last five starts, but he hasn't been the one credited for the victories and now he is only three games over .500.
On Monday the California native matched up against Kansas City at home, permitting just three runs on nine hits and a walk, while striking out six in 6 2/3 innings, but he left before his team could put the finishing touches on a 6-3 triumph.
In late April Wilson made his first appearance of the season against Tampa Bay, giving up just two runs and fanning a season-high 11 batters in seven innings, but once again he was charged with the loss in a 3-2 setback on the road. For his career Wilson is 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts and 18 all- time appearances.
As for the Rays, they are set to counter with second-year man Matt Moore. The left-hander is coming off his second loss in the last three decisions and is now one game under .500 at 6-7.
On Sunday the Florida native permitted just two runs on five hits and struck out seven over the course of eight innings versus Seattle, but still the Mariners logged a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.
Just 1-3 on the road in 2012, Moore clashed with the Angels earlier this season, failing to register a decision as he gave up three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and a couple of walks, while fanning six through 5 2/3 innings.
Moore has helped contribute to a pitching staff that is currently second in the AL in overall ERA with a mark of 3.64, with the Angels checking in three places down on the list with a 3.78 ERA, thanks in large part to an astounding 14 shutouts which easily leads the league.