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AL West Battle

The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels have competed for the top spot in the AL West the last six years.

This season doesn't appear to be any different.

The division rivals begin a four-game series in Anaheim on Monday night vying for the best record in the American League.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles -130 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -130 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

At 16-10, Oakland and Los Angeles are tied for the best record in the West - a record that also tops the entire league. The Angels won the division in 2007, 2005 and 2004 while the Athletics won in 2006, 2003 and 2002 - but for the A's, who finished last year with a losing record for the first time since 1998, their start has been a pleasant surprise.

"It's a good start, but it's a long season," Oakland manager Bob Geren told the A's official Web site. "We have to stay consistent."

Oakland has won seven of its last nine, including two of three over the weekend at Seattle. The A's closed out the series with a 4-2 victory on Sunday, getting a two-run single from Emil Brown and RBIs from Jack Cust and Ryan Sweeney during a four-run eighth inning.

"It's so encouraging for the guys to keep fighting to the end and to come back and win that game," Geren said. "That was huge for the team and the confidence of all the players."

Joe Blanton continued Oakland's run of strong starting pitching, allowing two runs in seven innings. The starters are 6-2 in the last nine games, posting a 2.86 ERA while pitching at least seven innings five times.

"It's always good on a tough road trip to take the first of the series," Blanton said. "We can take this into the next series and hopefully run with it."

The A's were 10-9 against the Angels last year, with the teams splitting the 10 games played in Anaheim.

The Angels improved to 10-4 in their last 14 games after taking two of three from Detroit over the weekend, including a 6-2 win on Sunday.

Torii Hunter drove in three runs with an RBI triple in the fourth and a two-run double in the sixth while Erick Aybar also had three RBIs. Los Angeles scored four runs in the sixth.

"We can compete with anybody, even in the position we're in health-wise," Hunter said. "We don't have our No. 1 starter, John Lackey, or Kelvim Escobar because of injuries. When we get those guys back, we're going to be even better."

The Angels will send Jon Garland (3-2, 5.04 ERA) to the mound as he looks to win his third straight start. He gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-4 win over Boston on Wednesday.

Garland has struggled against the Athletics in his career, going 3-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 13 starts.

Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas is 5-for-9 with two homers lifetime against Garland - his former teammate on the Chicago White Sox.

Chad Gaudin (2-1, 3.38) also looks to win his third consecutive outing. He allowed four hits in seven innings of a 3-0 win over Minnesota on Wednesday after giving up just one earned run in a win over Kansas City in his previous start.

The right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA in six career starts against the Angels. He's winless in his last four starts versus them, and has an 8.56 ERA in three starts in Anaheim.

Gaudin may want to be extra careful when facing Vladimir Guerrero. The Angels slugger is 7-for-13 with three home runs against him.

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