Angels-Tigers Preview

Detroit’s Max Scherzer is pitching with a lot of confidence, and

with good reason considering his recent strikeout numbers.

Scherzer takes the mound Sunday when the Tigers conclude their

series against the Los Angeles Angels, who are likely to be without

Albert Pujols in the starting lineup for a fourth straight

game.

These teams have split the first two games of this weekend’s

set, with Detroit (68-58) prevailing 5-3 on Saturday. The bottom

four hitters in the order drove in four of the Tigers’ runs, with

one of the biggest blows Jhonny Peralta’s two-run double just

inside the foul line to spark a three-run eighth-inning rally.

“Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t,”

said outfielder Andy Dirks, who had two hits and an RBI to help

Detroit remain within 2 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the AL

Central. “(Saturday) it bounced our way when we needed it to.

That’s part of playing baseball.”

The Tigers have won eight of the last 10 games started by

Scherzer (13-6, 4.27 ERA).

The right-hander allowed one run and five hits over seven

innings of a 5-3 win over Toronto on Tuesday. He had eight

strikeouts, marking the seventh straight outing in which he’s

recorded at least that many. His ERA is 2.98 in that span.

“I know that when I go out there, I know I can be really good,”

Scherzer said. ”I know I can pitch consistently and I know I can

get hitters out. I don’t fear a single hitter in this whole league.

When I bring my ‘A’ game and I bring my game, I can pitch well

against any team – doesn’t matter who it is.”

Scherzer limited the Angels to one run and three hits while

striking out nine over seven innings of a 5-1 home victory July

19.

Los Angeles (66-61) can’t be thrilled to see Scherzer again,

especially after scoring only five runs through the first two games

of this series and with Pujols unlikely to start Sunday. He’s

missed the last three games with a calf injury, and is expected to

be evaluated in the coming days.

Rookie phenom Mike Trout is having a tough series as well, going

0 for 9 through the first two games after entering the weekend

riding a 10-game hitting streak.

As the Angels try to get back into the playoff picture, they may

need continued improvement from Ervin Santana (7-10, 5.46), who

will aim to win his third straight start and fourth consecutive

decision on Sunday.

The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA over his last five

starts. He gave up five hits, allowing both runs on a two-run homer

in the sixth, over 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 win over Boston on

Tuesday.

“He was on just a tough roll where he really just didn’t have a

lot,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official website. “But

Ervin has done it before. We’ve seen him bounce back after some

tough starts … We have a lot of confidence in him.”

Santana is 6-2 with a 3.51 ERA in nine career starts against

Detroit. He allowed four runs – two earned – in six innings of an

8-6 loss July 16, but didn’t get the decision.