Angels Hit The Road

The Los Angeles Angels have built a reputation of having one of the most productive lineups in baseball. Their first two victories of 2008, though, have centered around stellar pitching.

They hope Ervin Santana - one of their most inconsistent hurlers a year ago - can also get off to a strong start Thursday night when they conclude a four-game season-opening series with the Minnesota Twins.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles -110 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 10 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -110 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The Angels (2-1), the reigning AL West champions, were fourth in the majors with a .284 batting average last season, while ranking fourth in the league in runs scored (822).

They have been solid at the plate again to start 2008, producing 12 runs with a .284 batting average through three games. Both of their homers have come from unconventional sources Mike Napoli and Casey Kotchman.

The offense has been far overshadowed by outstanding performances from starters Jon Garland and Joe Saunders, who have helped the Angles win two straight following Monday's season-opening 3-2 loss.

Garland and Saunders have combined with relievers Darren O'Day and Francisco Rodriguez to hold the Twins (1-2) to one run and 12 hits while forcing 36 groundball outs in the victories.

Los Angeles earned a 1-0 win Wednesday behind Saunders, one night after Garland was masterful in a 9-1 victory. The Angels have won six of their last seven games against Minnesota, allowing 12 total runs.

Rodriguez, who converted 40 of 46 save chances in 2007, notched his first save Wednesday with a hitless ninth, extending the team's streak of wins when leading after eight innings to 159 games - the longest current run in the majors.

Santana is hoping to gain some momentum from those outings after a shaky 2007, during which he was pulled from the rotation. The right-hander went 7-14 with a 5.76 ERA and gave up a team-high 26 homers. Those struggles came after he showed considerable promise in his first two seasons, going 28-16 with a 4.42 ERA.

Santana is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts against Minnesota, but he hasn't faced the Twins since his only loss against them on May 31, 2006. However, he's had success against Justin Morneau - the 2006 AL MVP - holding him to 1-for-7 at the plate.

Morneau, who signed a six-year, $80 million contract in the offseason, hopes to shake his season-opening slump. He has failed to get a hit in 10 at-bats, dropping his career batting average against the Angels to .195.

"It'll turn around," Morneau said. "I have confidence. I've hit all my life, so that's what I believe I'll do."

The Twins give the ball to Kevin Slowey (4-1, 4.73 ERA), who is looking to build on a strong finish to his rookie season.

The 23-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA in six games - four starts - in September after being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. Despite winning three decisions, he wasn't nearly as effective in his first six starts, posting a 5.13 ERA and serving up 11 homers.

That stretch included a rough outing against Los Angeles on June 6, when he allowed five runs and 10 hits, including one homer, in an 8-5 loss.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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