Wild, Wild West

The Seattle Mariners are the only team standing in the way of the Los Angeles Angels winning their third AL West title in four years. But Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia insists his squad is approaching this series like any other.

The Angels look to build their slim division lead when they open a three-game series with the Mariners on Monday night at Safeco Field.

Los Angeles (76-54) holds a two-game lead over Seattle (73-55) in the West. The Angels have taken eight of 12 meetings with the Mariners this season, but dropped two of three in their last visit to Seattle from July 30-Aug. 1.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Los Angeles -130 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -126 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

"This next series isn't going to make or break either team,'' said Scioscia, whose team will meet the Mariners for the final time in the regular season for a four-game set from Sept. 20-23 in Anaheim. "Obviously, for us to get through our division, you're going to have to beat Seattle. But it not going to change the way we have to approach or go about our business.''

John Lackey (15-8, 3.34 ERA), who will take the mound for the Angels in the opener, has yet to allow a run to Seattle in two starts this year, totaling 15 innings. In an 8-0 win on July 31, the right-hander scattered seven hits during his first complete game this year and sixth career shutout.

"I knew it was an important game. We needed the win," Lackey said after winning his third straight start over the Mariners, all in Seattle, to even his career record against them at 8-8.

The right-hander, though, comes in trying to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time since Aug. 4-14, 2006. After allowing seven runs and a season-high 11 hits over four innings of an 8-4 loss to Boston on Aug. 17, he struggled against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

Lackey lasted seven innings, giving up four runs and nine hits in an 8-2 defeat in his first home loss since June 25.

Kelvim Escobar moved into a tie for the team lead in wins Sunday as the Angels defeated Toronto 3-1 to salvage a four-game split of the series. Escobar, a former Blue Jay, retired the first 12 batters he faced and went eight innings.

"Kelvim was lights-out today with eight strong innings," Scioscia said. "It's good to see that he held his stuff that deep into the game."

Seattle continues a grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days with a brief stop at home. Despite a 5-3 loss in Texas on Sunday, the Mariners are 7-3 in their last 10 and still hold a two-game lead over the New York Yankees in the wild-card race.

The Mariners are now trying to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since a season-high seven-game skid July 21-26. Following this series, they'll travel to Cleveland for one makeup game, play three in Toronto and three in New York against the Yankees before a day off on Sept. 6.

Seattle's Miguel Batista (13-9, 4.57) gets the start Monday and will try to rebound from one of his worst outings of the season. The right-hander gave up a season high-tying eight runs and nine hits over two innings in an 8-4 defeat to Minnesota on Wednesday.

He thew just 47 pitches in his shortest start of the season.

"That wasn't the Batista we're used to seeing,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said.

The Mariners' leader in wins, though, has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his last five home starts.

Batista is 4-3 with a 5.62 ERA in 11 career games, including six starts, versus the Angels. He is 2-1 against them this season, including a 2-0 win on July 30 in which he scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings.

Los Angeles' Vladimir Guerrero is batting .522 (12-for-23) with a homer and three doubles during his career versus Batista while Reggie Willits is 4-for-5 with a triple against him.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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