The Oakland Athletics have a chance to create even more distance in the standings from their American League West rival as they conclude their four-game series with the LA Angels of Anaheim at O.co Coliseum.
The Angels opened this four-game set on a good note with an 8-3 victory before the Athletics responded with strong starts by Bartolo Colon and Tommy Milone to capture the next two games. The A's now have a five-game lead over the Rangers for first place in the division and are 12 in front of the visitors and Mariners, who are tied for third.
In Saturday's 3-1 win Derek Norris hit a clutch pinch-hit two-run homer to lift the A's to the win. Jed Lowrie hit an RBI double for the Athletics, who have won five of seven.
Oakland has found a way to be successful despite a .244 team batting average, which is the third worst in the American League. In the third game of the series, Yoenis Cespedes struck out in two of his three at-bats and went hitless for the third straight game.
The Home Run Derby champion has not left the ballpark since June 21.
The A's pitching has been terrific, though, and Jarrod Parker has been as good as anyone in the AL in recent weeks. The 24-year old right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his last 10 starts with an opponent batting average of .175. However, Oakland has lost all five of Parker's most recent starts while he walked away from each game with a no-decision.
Parker held Houston to two runs, only one of which was earned, on five hits over seven innings of work on Tuesday.
The Angels will send Tommy Hanson to the hill to duel Parker. Hanson was impressive in his first game back from the disabled list on Tuesday, holding Minnesota to one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings of action.
"I feel really healthy," Hanson said after making his first start since being activated from the DL. "Everything feels really good. I didn't feel like I had to force anything tonight. It was there. I felt really good and I feel like the results were there as well."
The Angels will again be without Albert Pujols on Sunday. He returned to Los Angeles on Saturday morning for testing on his injured left foot. The power hitter has had trouble with plantar fasciitis all season and re-injured his foot running to first base in the ninth inning of Friday's loss.
Josh Hamilton's solo home run was the only score of the game for the Angels on Saturday. None of the Angels managed to register a multi-hit game and Mark Trumbo went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Both teams stranded seven men on base as the Angels went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and the A's were 0-for-7
The A's have won eight of 12 this season versus the Angels.