Halos Battle O's
John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar are still injured, Chone Figgins may be joining them and Vladimir Guerrero was benched Saturday in the midst of a career-worst drought.
The Los Angeles Angels lead the AL West, though, and Joe Saunders has been a huge reason why.
The unbeaten left-hander will look to win his fifth straight start and tie for the AL lead in wins on Sunday when the Angels host the Baltimore Orioles in the deciding game of the teams' series.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles -175 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 93% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -175 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game. Get real live customizable updates, public betting info from 6 online sports books, archived public betting info and much more by clicking here.
After bouncing between the minor leagues and Los Angeles (19-13) last season, Saunders was assured of a spot in the rotation to start this year due to injuries to Lackey (triceps) and Escobar (torn right labrum) - the Angels' two best starters in 2007.
Saunders (5-0, 2.08 ERA) had a 4.71 career ERA coming into this season, but he hasn't left much doubt about where he belongs in 2008, pitching like an ace in six starts. With a win on Sunday, he can join the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang as the AL's only six-game winners.
"I was trying to get off to a great start," Saunders said. "With John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar going down with injuries, I had to really contribute early on and try to pick up the slack."
Los Angeles has won every game he has started, including Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Oakland. Saunders tossed eight innings, allowing just four singles and a walk.
"He's 5-0 for a reason," Athletics DH Frank Thomas said. "He was fading the ball away, and that's a little different than he did in the past when he was really pounding it in. He had good movement tonight with his changeup and breaking ball. He pitched out of some jams, and that's why he's doing so well this year. It looks like he's confident with his pitches right now."
Two of Saunders' eight wins in 2007 came against the Orioles (16-14), although he allowed six runs and 14 hits over 11 innings in those games.
In one of them, he faced Steve Trachsel, who will be looking for his first win in five starts on Sunday. In two starts against the Angels last year, Trachsel (1-3, 6.08 ERA) allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits in just 4 2-3 innings.
Guerrero is 19-for-39 (.487) with three home runs in his career against Trachsel - a matchup the former AL MVP hopes will help end one of the worst slumps of his career. Guerrero, who has gone five straight games without a hit for the first time, didn't play Saturday.
The Angels won Saturday's game 3-1 behind eight strong innings from Jon Garland and Francisco Rodriguez's major league-leading 12th save, but they may have lost a key offensive component, as Figgins left the game in the eighth inning with a hamstring injury. The infielder was due to have an MRI, and his status is unclear for Sunday's game.
The Orioles have been dealing with offensive problems of their own as they've managed only eight runs while dropping three of their last four games. They had only three hits Saturday for the second time in their last three games, and they're hoping to avoid dropping their fifth straight series in Anaheim.