The Los Angeles Angels have a terrific opportunity to gain ground on the Texas Rangers this weekend, and Garrett Richards gives them the perfect chance to start this three-game set Friday night on a winning note.
Richards has captured six straight starts against the Rangers for the Angels, who seek to avoid their first five-game home slide in two years.
Time is running out for Los Angeles (67-66) to get into playoff position. The Angels trail the Rangers (70-62) by 3 1/2 games for the AL's second wild card while Texas is hoping to overcome a two-game deficit in the West and catch Houston.
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"We're right where we wanna be, we've just got to continue to take care of our business, not worry about anything else," Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland said.
The Angels are 8-4 versus the Rangers, with Richards (12-10, 3.80 ERA) beating them twice to run his record to 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six outings against them since the start of 2014. He is 7-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 starts against Texas, including 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in seven at home.
Prince Fielder is 5 for 10 over the last two years against the right-hander, but Rougned Odor is 1 for 13 in that span.
Richards yielded three runs with nine strikeouts in seven innings Saturday and did not get a decision in an 8-3 loss at Cleveland. Los Angeles is 4-0 in his home starts against AL West foes.
Moreland will be back at first base Friday after he was forced to the bench for an interleague series this week in which Prince Fielder played the position. Texas took two of three in San Diego, with Moreland doubling home the go-ahead run in the 10th inning in Wednesday's 4-3 win.
The Rangers have won 15 out of 20.
''It's been a good stretch and we've got a ways to go,'' manager Jeff Banister said. ''We've got to continue to play well and be on top of our game.''
Josh Hamilton returned as a pinch-hitter Wednesday after being out since Aug. 15 due to left knee inflammation. He was loudly booed during his return to Anaheim from July 24-26.
The Rangers will start Martin Perez (2-3, 5.15), who has gone 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in his last five starts. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two against the Angels from 2013.
Shane Victorino is expected to be in the Angels lineup since he is 3 for 3 off Perez and batting .266 off lefties compared to .197 versus righties.
The Angels last dropped five in a row at home from Aug. 4-16, 2013, and are opening a nine-game homestand after capturing a three-game set with Oakland with Wednesday's 9-4 victory.
Albert Pujols went deep to became one of four players with 10 35-homer seasons in their first 15 years.
''I've been blessed my whole career,'' said Pujols, who has 555 homers and will pass Manny Ramirez for 14th all-time with his next one. ''I was born to play this game and to hit.''
Pujols has 35 homers - two more than Mike Trout, who has gone a career-worst 25 games without going deep. Trout is hitting .432 with four homers and 11 RBIs in the season series.