Though the Los Angeles Angels have the high-priced, marquee talent, the low-budget Oakland Athletics are the team to catch in the AL West.
Looking to continue their success in Anaheim, the visiting A's hope to end their recent struggles against Jered Weaver and hand the underachieving Angels a fourth consecutive defeat Friday night.
For the first time since 1990 - the last time it won the AL pennant - Oakland (56-39) is in first place at the All-Star break with a two-game lead over Texas. It also tied a club record for most wins at the break.
"I really believe that the guys in this clubhouse really believe that we have one of the best teams in baseball,' said third baseman Josh Donaldson, who leads the A's in batting (.310), home runs (16) and RBIs (61).
Oakland also has a 2.76 staff ERA in winning 12 of 17 since last losing a series at Seattle from June 21-23.
"From 1 to 25, we feel like we can put anybody in the game and they're going to be successful," Donaldson said.
Second-year outfielder and 2013 Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes is hitting .225, but has 15 homers and 43 RBIs.
"His production's still there,' manager Bob Melvin said. "He's always on the verge of a hot streak.'
Cespedes has batted .321 with a homer and seven RBIs this season versus Los Angeles (44-49), which snapped a five-game skid against the A's with a 5-4 win May 1.
The A's outscored the Angels 28-11 to sweep a three-game set at Los Angeles in April. Oakland has averaged 5.1 runs while winning 10 of 12 there.
However, Weaver (3-5, 3.63 ERA) has thrown 18 straight scoreless innings versus Oakland. He yielded only a Seth Smith solo home run over 30 2-3 innings to go 3-0 in four starts against the A's last season.
The right-hander, who missed almost two months with a broken elbow, allowed two runs in 20 2-3 while going 2-0 in three starts before he gave up four and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday.
Los Angeles starting pitchers rank near the bottom of the majors with a 4.57 ERA.
"We're not going to reach our goal without starting pitching," manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels' official website.
Despite the addition of slugger Josh Hamilton to a lineup that included Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, the Angels are third in the West and 11 back of Oakland.
They had won 11 of 14 before being limited to six runs during a three-game sweep at the hands of Seattle last weekend.
"We need to become the team we can be and play consistent baseball,' Scioscia said. "It's in this group. We just need to get it going.'
It likely needs to start with Hamilton and Pujols, who are hitting a combined .237 with 29 homers - eight less than Baltimore's Chris Davis.
Pujols is 0 for 8 in the last two versus Oakland and 1 for 6 against scheduled starter A.J. Griffin (8-6, 3.68).
Hamilton is 4 for 7 against the right-hander, who is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last five starts after giving up six hits in eight innings of a 3-0 win over Boston on Saturday.
Griffin is 2-0 against the Angels, with the only run he allowed in 16 innings of those road contests coming over eight frames of an 8-1 victory April 11.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved