Angels-Athletics Preview

The next two weeks will determine if the Los Angeles Angels can
close the gap in the AL West race and return to the postseason.

Sending Jered Weaver to the mound more often may improve their
chances.

Weaver looks to set a career high in wins and continue his
recent dominance of the Oakland Athletics as the visiting Angels go
for a second consecutive win in the finale of this three-game set
Wednesday.

Los Angeles (81-67) is second in the AL West, three games back
of first-place Texas with 14 remaining. The rivals conclude the
regular season with a three-game set in Anaheim in two weeks that
could determine the division champion.

The Angels missed the playoffs last year after winning the
previous three West titles, and manager Mike Scioscia is preparing
to use Weaver (16-7, 2.44 ERA) on three days’ rest to keep that
from happening again.

“He will definitely come back on three days at some point,”
Scioscia told the team’s official website.

This time, Weaver is getting the ball on normal rest, and he’s
coming off a dazzling effort despite not getting a decision in
Friday’s 2-1 win over New York. The right-hander struck out 11
while yielding one run and three hits over eight innings.

For Weaver, it was a vastly improved effort after he’d split his
previous two starts while surrendering 13 runs in 11 innings.

“It was good to be able to bounce back against a lineup like
that,” Weaver said. “Those guys can hit a bunch of homers and put
some balls in play, so to have a good one like this brought the
confidence level back up.”

Confidence shouldn’t be a problem for the right-hander in this
matchup, as he’s 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA in three meetings with the A’s
(67-81) this year. He held them to two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a
4-2 win at Oakland on July 16 after losing all three of his visits
there in 2010.

Another win Wednesday would give Weaver a career high of 17.

Howie Kendrick connected for two homers and four RBIs in
Tuesday’s 6-3 victory as the Angels avoided a three-game losing
streak. Three of Kendrick’s last five hits have left the park.

“We need contributions from a lot of guys and we need guys to
start producing the way they can,” Scioscia said. “Howie gave us a
big boost with both his home runs (Tuesday). We need some other
guys to start following suit and we can get a little more momentum
going.”

Maicer Izturis is doing his part, hitting .356 with 10 doubles
over his last 17 games. He has three hits in this series, including
two hits and an RBI on Tuesday.

Another loss will assure Oakland of its fourth losing season in
five years.

Rich Harden (4-2, 4.74) will try to delay that fate for one game
as he takes the mound for the series finale.

The right-hander has a bloated 7.63 ERA but no decisions over
his last three starts. He last pitched in an 11-6 loss to Kansas
City on Sept. 5, striking out 10 in five innings but also giving up
four runs and eight hits.

Harden has beaten the Angels more than any other club, going 6-3
with a 3.77 ERA in 16 career meetings.