Angels-Royals Preview

Any loss is magnified in a tight playoff race. The Los Angeles

Angels’ latest defeat could loom particularly large.

Hoping to shake the effects of a disheartening loss, the Angels

look to avoid dropping their second straight series Sunday against

the Kansas City Royals.

After winning Friday’s series opener, the Angels were two outs

away from another victory Saturday night following a brilliant

outing from Zack Greinke, who left with a 2-0 lead. Ernesto Frieri

replaced Greinke with a runner at first and one out in the ninth

and promptly served up Billy Butler’s tying home run. Three pitches

later, Salvador Perez homered off the left-field pole to give

Kansas City (66-79) a stunning 3-2 win.

“We knew to look for a fastball,” Perez said. “That’s what he

throws. I just looked at the umpire. When he threw his hand up, I

knew we got it.”

Frieri’s blown save sent the Angels (79-67) to their fourth loss

in six games following an 11-1 stretch. They did get some help when

Baltimore lost to Oakland later Saturday, keeping them within 2 1/2

games of the second wild card.

“Anytime you lose a game late it’s a heavier page to turn, but

we have to come out tomorrow,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re

at the point in the season where everything changes, inning to

inning, pitch to pitch.”

Kendrys Morales homered in his second straight game and Torii

Hunter added the other RBI for Los Angeles, which had won four in a

row on the road.

“We’re professionals,” catcher Chris Iannetta said. “We’ve been

there before. We’ve all come through losses like this, gone through

highs and lows. We know how to bounce back. It’s just what we do.

We know how to turn the page.”

Hunter leads the AL with a .349 average since the All-Star break

and has 16 RBIs in his last 17 games.

Butler’s homer continued a torrid stretch for the Kansas City

designated hitter, who is batting .352 with 16 RBIs in his last 21

games. He has four homers and nine RBIs in eight games against the

Angels this season.

The Angels send Dan Haren (10-11, 4.45 ERA) to the mound hoping

he can continue his run of solid outings.

Haren is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his past four starts, striking

out 21 and walking three during that span. He failed to win his

third straight start Monday, allowing three runs – including a pair

of solo homers – and four hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-1 loss to

Oakland.

Haren is 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts against the Royals

but struggled in a 6-3 loss to them in his season debut April 7. He

allowed five runs and a season-high 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Kansas City looks to continue in the role of spoiler behind

rookie Will Smith (5-7, 4.94), who aims to build off his best

outing of the season.

After posting a 6.75 ERA while losing his previous three starts,

the left-hander scattered seven hits – all singles – and struck out

a career-high seven over seven innings of a 9-1 win at Minnesota on

Tuesday.

Smith has notched quality starts in each of his last two outings

at home, but is 1-4 with a 6.07 ERA there on the season.

He was outstanding in a 4-1 victory in Anaheim on July 24,

yielding one run and two hits over seven innings.