The Los Angeles Angels' bats were quiet during a three-game series with the New York Yankees. Though they've been far more effective with the lumber recently in Toronto, the Blue Jays show no signs of abandoning their winning ways.
The Angels open a four-game series Friday night at Rogers Centre, where they've won four straight and will now try to end the Blue Jays' winning streak at six.
Toronto (18-17) completed a four-game sweep of Philadelphia with a 12-6 home victory Thursday. Edwin Encarnacion hit two homers, giving him four in his last three games, to pace an offense that's averaging 7.0 runs in eight games this month.
"We are some kind of hot right now," said manager John Gibbons, whose club has 13 homers during the streak and is averaging two per home game. "You put us in this ballpark, it's a home run heaven here. It's tough to pitch to. Everyone is feeding off each other."
Los Angeles (16-17) has won seven of eight against the Blue Jays, including a three-game sweep in Toronto from Sept. 10-12. The Angels are hitting .315 with 31 runs and 22 extra-base hits in their last four games there.
The Angels, however, hit .176 in dropping two of three to the Yankees early this week.
Rookie C.J. Cron was the lone bright spot in Wednesday's 9-2 loss, going 3 for 4 to improve to 8 for 19 in five games.
Another solid start from Garrett Richards could relieve the pressure on the offense.
Richards (3-0, 2.84 ERA) has been all the Angels hoped for in his first full season in the rotation, holding opponents to a .184 average with 40 strikeouts over 38 innings. He got his first decision in four starts Saturday, surrendering three runs on nine hits while striking out nine in six innings of a 5-3 win over Texas.
The 25-year-old had bounced between the rotation and bullpen the last few seasons.
"I think we saw signs of what he was capable of doing early on," fellow Angels starter Jered Weaver told the team's official website. "And now we're seeing this year that he can be one of the best pitchers in the league."
The hard-throwing right-hander won his last two starts against the Blue Jays - both coming in the final two months of 2013 - in which he allowed five runs in 13 2-3 innings.
While Richards has secured his spot in the rotation, Toronto's Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.80) is rumored to be fighting for his, though Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said that isn't the case.
"I never understood the whole McGowan watch," Anthopoulos said. "I kept hearing every start is for his job. I don't know that we've ever said it. It's been three starts in a row, every start is for his job. I just don't know that ever came from the organization."
McGowan has responded well to that talk in his last two starts, allowing three earned runs on six hits in 13 innings. He got his second win in Sunday's 7-2 victory at Pittsburgh, yielding a run on three hits in seven innings.
"He's definitely shown me something," Gibbons said.
In five career starts against the Angels, McGowan is 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA. He'll have to contend with Albert Pujols, who is a career .419 hitter in Toronto.
Jose Bautista's 36 consecutive games reaching base dating to last season is the best in baseball since Mike Trout went 40 from June 3-Aug. 18.
Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (right hamstring) has missed three games and isn't expected back Friday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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