After finishing ahead of the big-spending Los Angeles Angels in last year's AL West race, the Oakland Athletics are well on their way to pulling off that feat again.
Following a lopsided victory, the streaking A's will try to secure their best start since 1992 and finish off their first three-game sweep of the slumping Angels in nine years Thursday night.
Despite Los Angeles' big offseason spending spree last season, Oakland finished two spots ahead of the Angels in the division, winning its first AL West title since 2006. Los Angeles brought in another high-priced free agent in slugger Josh Hamilton before this season but finds itself once again looking up at the A's (7-2).
The Angels (2-6) have the AL's worst record after an 11-5 drubbing to Oakland on Wednesday. Brandon Moss finished a double shy of the cycle, hit his second homer in as many nights and matched a career high with five RBIs, giving him nine in the first two games of the series.
"Obviously, I've hit some balls well," Moss said. "But no matter what it might look like, I've just had some hits that have found holes and broken bats and roll-overs that have gone through. Sometimes baseball's like that."
The A's finished with a season-high 16 hits and have reached double digits in each of their seven consecutive victories, two shy of their longest win streak from all of last season. Oakland now has a chance to open 6-0 on the road for the first time since 1990 as well as post its best 10-game start overall since beginning 8-2 21 years ago.
Coco Crisp has keyed the win streak, hitting safely in all seven games while batting .406 with 13 runs. The veteran leadoff man failed to homer for a fifth straight game Wednesday but did steal a base for the second consecutive day and scored twice.
The loss spoiled a 4-for-4 performance from Los Angeles' Albert Pujols, who bumped his average from .227 to .346. Hamilton, meanwhile, is batting .156 (5 for 32) with 13 strikeouts.
The Angels will try to salvage the series finale with help from Jason Vargas, who had a strong debut for the team Friday. The California native, acquired from Seattle in the offseason, gave up one run over 5 2-3 innings at Texas in a 3-2 loss.
Vargas (0-0, 1.59 ERA) has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts against Oakland, going 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA.
The A's will counter with A.J. Griffin (1-0, 3.00), who was splendid in his only start against the Angels. The right-hander tossed eight scoreless innings and struck out six in a 4-1 victory Sept. 12.
In his season debut, the 25-year-old Griffin allowed two runs over six innings in an 8-2 victory over Seattle last Thursday and improved to 8-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 16 major league starts.
The A's haven't swept a series of more than two games against the Angels since June 29-July 1, 2004. Their last sweep in Anaheim featured four victories from Oct. 4-7, 2001.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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