The Los Angeles Angels will try to stop their fall with offensive production when they face Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays in the third part of a four-game series.
The Rays won the opener of the set, 7-0, on Thursday and followed that with a 12-3 victory over Jered Weaver on Friday. Weaver (15-3) came into the game leading the AL in ERA, but the bats of Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, Sean Rodriguez, and Jose Molina propelled Tampa to its second win in a row.
Upton led the way by going 4-for-5 with a home run, double, and three runs driven in. Ben Zobrist and Molina also homered to keep the Rays in first place in the AL wild card race.
"B.J.'s playing at this higher level," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think the last time I saw something similar to this it was in the playoffs in 2008. It's fun to watch because I can really see that his focus is great. His confidence is soaring. You're starting to see the abilities matching the expectations. He's in a good place right now. ... B.J.'s home run really was a big moment for us. But then [Weaver] settled in and I thought it was going to be different."
Tampa hopes Cobb can replicate Jamie Shields' (11-3) success in Friday's game. Cobb has been on a roll lately and won for the third straight time as he struck out seven batters and allowed just one run on five hits over seven innings against Toronto on Monday.
"I think Cobb was really the key," Maddon said. "Cobber was very good. And, as is typical for him, he's got better as the game was in progress. I thought his last two innings were his best again. He gets into a rhythm and all of a sudden starts making pitches. The curveball was outstanding again. And then the changeup, the depth at the end of the game before we took him out."
The right-hander has gone seven innings and given up just one run in each of the games along the personal winning streak. Cobb's ERA over his last seven starts is now 2.97.
Los Angeles is 2 1/2 games out of the wild card and seven games behind Texas in the AL West.
"The way we play is going to dictate where we end up, and right now, we're not playing at the high level we need to be playing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When you're down early, you're handing it to the other team to set up their bullpen and making it tough on yourself. That's where we've been for the last month far too often."
The Angels will turn the ball over to C.J. Wilson, hoping he can help them stay in the playoff hunt. Wilson will try to end his streak of nine starts without a winning decision tonight. Wilson is 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA since defeating the Orioles on June 26. The 31-year old southpaw could see his record drop below .500 after entering July at 9-4.
Wilson is 0-2 with a 3.29 ERA against Tampa Bay this season.
Torii Hunter continued to play well and went 3-for-4 on Friday. He is now batting .344 in August. Albert Pujols has been unable to get it going so far in the series, going 1-for-8 with two strikeouts.
The Angels have lost 10 of their last 11 games versus Tampa Bay.