(SportsNetwork.com) - Despite being five games below .500, the Tampa Bay Rays are just 4 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East as they prepare to face off against the LA Angels of Anaheim in the third game of a four game series in California.
Winners in three of their last four overall, the Rays registered their second shutout in the last three contests on Friday as they picked up a 3-0 decision, one night after Mike Trout helped the Angels squeeze out a 6-5 victory in the series opener.
Tampa Bay used five pitchers to limit the production of the LA bats, with starter Chris Archer coming away with his third win of the season after allowing just two hits over 5 2/3 innings. Archer did end up walking five, but at the same time struck out just as many Angels hitters. Grant Balfour captured his eighth save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.
"Archer was good, kept a nice tempo," said Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon of his starter. "The stuff you saw out of him was typical for him. You saw the good velocity with the fastball. I thought the slider had better location. He ran into that one little moment again where he walked several guys in a row, but he got through it against a pretty good hitter, which was nice to see that."
Offensively, Yunel Escobar logged three of his team's six hits, one of those being his third home run of the season. Also coming around to score for the visitors were Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria.
The Angels, a team which is 13-8 on the road thus far but only 9-11 in front of the hometown crowd, saw Trout account for three of six strikeouts during a lackluster offensive performance all around.
Jered Weaver was saddled with the loss, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks through seven innings. Weaver managed to strike out five, the team registering eight total as they fell 3 1/2 games off the pace in the AL West where they sit in second place behind Oakland.
"This was the best start (Weaver's) had all season ... but Archer had good stuff tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia noted.
Aiming to lead the Rays to their fourth win in the last five tries, Cesar Ramos heads to the hill for the visitors tonight in California. The left- hander, a California native himself who began his career with San Diego in 2009, is coming off his second loss of the campaign Monday when he was lit up by Seattle on the road in a 12-5 setback.
Ramos, who has five career appearances against the Angels but just a single blown save to show for his efforts, was charged with nine runs -- five earned -- on 11 hits and a couple of walks, while striking out six in his second loss of the season.
Countering for the Angels will be C.J. Wilson as he tries to work his way back into the win column for the first time this month. Earlier this week Wilson, also a California native, was roughed up by Toronto as the Blue Jays tallied five runs on just six hits, two of those home runs, and a trio of bases-on- balls. The left-hander lasted only six innings, although he did strike out eight.
Wilson has appeared in 21 games previously versus Tampa Bay in his career, with eight starts, and has a 4-2 record to show for his efforts.
LA claimed a slight edge in the series last season with the Rays, 4-3, a year after Tampa Bay dominated the relationship by posting nine wins in 10 tries.