With their nagging losing streak now in the past, the Tampa Bay Rays will try to grab an upper hand on the LA Angels of Anaheim when the two clubs resume a four-game set Wednesday in Anaheim.
The Rays ended a five-game slide with Tuesday's 7-1 win behind an admirable performance from starting pitcher Matt Moore, who allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings of work. He struck out six, but struggled with control at times with four walks. Moore was making his first start since July 28 due to left elbow soreness.
"It didn't feel foreign out there," Moore said. "I was happy with the result and making it through the fifth inning."
Roberto Hernandez tossed 3 2/3 perfect frames and struck out seven to notch his first career save.
Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar each hit solo homers, while Ben Zobrist added a two-run double for the Rays, who moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees and three in front of the Baltimore Orioles for the AL's second wild-card spot.
The Rays are 5 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East and hope to find success with Jeremy Hellickson on the hill Wednesday. Hellickson was optioned to the minors for a week to get back on track and didn't pitch in a game. He worked on his mechanics at Tropicana Field to prepare for Wednesday's start.
Tampa, which has two wins in its last 10 games, is only 1-5 in Hellickson's last six starts and he owns an 0-5 mark to go along with a 9.00 earned run average over that stretch.
Hellickson lasted just 2 2/3 innings in an 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Royals last Monday and allowed five runs and seven hits. He has given up four or more runs five times in the last six appearances and is 10-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 27 starts this season. In four career meetings (3 starts) against the Angels, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA.
The Angels were cooled off with last night's loss and had won five straight and nine of 10 games. Jason Vargas was saddled with the loss in his start and was reached for five runs and 10 hits in four innings.
"He made good pitches early, but then left some over the middle and they took advantage," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas.
Erick Aybar scored on a Zobrist error in the second inning for the Angels. Josh Hamilton did not play and Mike Trout was 1-for-3. Anaheim's first four batters went 1-for-14 with eight K's.
Jered Weaver will handle pitching duties for the Halos Wednesday and is aiming to reach the 10-win mark for an eighth straight season. He has won at least 11 games every year since his debut in 2006 and tossed six shutout innings in Friday's 5-0 win at Milwaukee, improving to 9-7 in 20 starts with a 3.30 ERA.
Weaver has won back-to-back outings and is 6-2 in his past eight decisions. In 10 home starts this season, Weaver has posted a 6-3 mark to go along with a 2.59 earned run average. He has made eight career starts against the Rays, going 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA.
Tampa was 9-1 against the Angels last season.