Yankees-Angels preview

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Yankees' flickering playoff hopes took a hit earlier in the week when New York faced one of the American League's best teams.

The Yankees will attempt to better their chances this weekend against one of the league's worst.

After dropping two out of three games to the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees (61-59) make their lone visit to Anaheim this season to face the AL West cellar-dwelling Angels (51-70).

New York starts play six games behind the AL wild-card co-leaders, the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox.

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (9-4, 3.40 ERA) is scheduled to face Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (8-10, 5.32 ERA).

Tanaka is seeking to win a third consecutive start for the first time since July 2015. He recorded eight strikeouts and no walks in each of his past two wins, the first Yankees pitcher to record at least that many K's without walking a batter in consecutive starts since Mike Mussina in May 2003.

Tanaka will face Los Angeles with five days' rest due to the team's Thursday off day. He has no lifetime decisions and a 2.70 ERA over 13 1/3 innings in two starts against the Angels.

After selling off mainstays Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller at the trade deadline, the Yankees have stayed in contention due largely to the combined efforts of a pair rookies, catcher Gary Sanchez and right fielder Aaron Judge.

Sanchez enters the weekend hitting .360 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 13 games, while Judge has a .389 average with two homers and four RBIs through his first five games.

While some teams would have seen the multiple trades as an end to their season, manager Joe Girardi has maintained on numerous occasions he has not given up and that his team must continue to win games to stay in contention.

"I think it is (a possibility), to make the playoffs," Girardi said Wednesday, according to Newsday. "I like what we have here. I know that there's a lot of inexperience and we've had some injuries to our pitching staff and we've had some players traded away, but we're going for this. That's what we're doing. I think you see the fight in the guys. We believe."

After returning home this week following a horrible road trip with an 11-game losing streak, Los Angeles was competitive in splitting a four-game series another team trying to make up ground in the AL wild-card race, Seattle. The Mariners entered the series with the second-best record in the majors after the All-Star break, but their playoff drive was temporarily stalled by the Angels.

Weaver will be making second appearance against the Yankees this year. He was charged with the loss on June 8 at Yankee Stadium after allowing six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Angels are looking for their first win against New York this season after dropping all four of the previous contests. However, they have played well historically at home against the Yankees, posting a 21-12 record since 2008.

With Los Angeles' season hopelessly lost, the attention has turned toward escaping the AL West basement by playing spoilers.

Albert Pujois is faring well at home, hitting .343 (33-for-99) with nine homers and 30 RBIs over his past 24 home games. Leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar is one of the league's hottest hitters, registering eight hits in the last two games of the Seattle series to raise his average to .320, second to the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (.363).

"Yunel hits the ball hard. I think he's as good as anybody at putting the ball in play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after a 6-4 win over the Mariners on Thursday. "He's had a terrific season, and the last couple of nights, he's found a lot of holes."