With Santana starting 6-1 and Saunders 7-1, and with ace John Lackey's return to form another positive note, the pitching staff has been upgraded and uplifted.
Not as stable is an infield that has been thoroughly tested with a series of injuries. In the latest moves, Chone Figgins is back at third base, Erick Aybar is on the 15-day disabled list with a dislocated right pinkie, Brandon Wood is on his way back to offer support on the left side of the infield and third baseman Matt Brown is returning to Triple-A Salt Lake.The Angels have made depth throughout the roster a high priority, loading up on quality reinforcements everywhere. While they haven't found much need yet for fifth and sixth outfielders Reggie Willits and Juan Rivera, who eagerly wait for the call, the infield support group has been put to work beyond anybody's expectations. When Aybar went on the disabled list Wednesday for what could be a month-long visit, he became the fourth Angels infielder to hit the DL already this season, joining Howard Kendrick, Maicer Izturis and Chone Figgins. Izturis and Figgins are back, manning the left side of the infield, but Kendrick remains out of action with a strained left hamstring. With his return up in the air, rookie Sean Rodriguez has filled the void with solid defense while getting a feel for Major League pitching. Rodriguez has impressed Scioscia and teammates with his ability to leave his offensive struggles in the dugout and keep his head clear and in the game defensively. His alert, adept work with the glove has contributed prominently to several victories. His first error came Wednesday night, but it was a tough chance to his backhand that he knocked down in retreat. It easily could have been ruled a hit for Alex Rios. "He's been playing very good defense," said first baseman Casey Kotchman of Rodriguez, who moved from shortstop, where the organization is heavily stocked, to second base last season. "Your bat isn't going to be there every night. But your glove can be -- and should be. He's been making a lot of good plays, covering ground. He showed his adaptability here [at Rogers Centre]. He never played on this surface before, and it's not easy." Rodriguez will provide support for Izturis at shortstop while helping hold down second base until Kendrick brings his lethal bat and quality glove back to the lineup. "Just trying to do what you can to help," Rodriguez said, describing his mind-set. "When you're not swinging well, you've got to do something to help the team out. Hopefully, you're going to come through when you get your chance to do it." Figgins' return brought the catalyst back into action. After lining a one-hopper to shortstop in his first at-bat in 16 games, Figgins walked and was able to stroll home on the second of Vladimir Guerrero's homers in the third inning. The Angels' leadoff man singled in the seventh. "He brings things we need from the top of the lineup," Scioscia said of Figgins, who is second in the American League in on-base percentage and one of the game's premier basestealers. "We're trying to get some continuity with our tablesetters in front of Vlad, Garret [Anderson] and Torii [Hunter]. Figgy should bring some spark back." The key is for Figgins and his partners in the infield to buck the trend and stay healthy for a nice long spell. Pitching matchup
LAA: RHP Ervin Santana (6-1, 2.97 ERA)
After opening the season with seven consecutive superb outings, giving up no more than three runs in any of them, Santana had his second straight so-so performance on a stifling Saturday against the Dodgers. After retiring the first five hitters, striking out two, he walked a man and yielded a disputed home run to Blake DeWitt. A walk and hit batsman set up two more runs in the third, and Santana gritted it out through six innings, yielding four runs on five hits while striking out five. TOR: RHP A.J. Burnett (4-4, 4.71 ERA)
Burnett had a strong outing in his last start, going 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 victory over the Phillies on Saturday. Burnett struck out eight and gave up just two runs in facing moderate danger. He kept the Phillies off balance with a two-seam fastball. He gave up a total of four hits. He also saw his ERA sink from 4.94 to 4.71. Tidbits
Wood's arrival gives depth at shortstop and third, while Brown is primarily a third baseman without as much experience at shortstop. ... Dustin Moseley will continue his bid to get back in the Angels bullpen when he pitches for Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. "He showed some positive signs last outing," Scioscia said of Moseley, on the DL since May 4 with right forearm stiffness. "Hopefully, he'll keep building stamina." ... After struggling last season against left-handers, finishing 19-21, the Angels have turned it around. They're 7-2 this year against lefty starters, hitting .280 against southpaws compared to .262 against right-handers. ... They hit .284 last year with runners in scoring position and have upgraded that as well, to .292 this season. Their best hitters this season with runners in scoring position have been sidelined, accounting in part for the recent frustrations. Kendrick is 6-for-8 (.750) and Figgins is batting .429 with runners on second and/or third. Casey Kotchman is hitting .366 with runners in scoring position and .400 against southpaws (fourth in the AL). Kotchman also is the fourth hardest hitter to strike out in the AL, going down just once every 15.5 at-bats. Tickets
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KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 (Español) Up next
Friday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 7-1, 2.48) at White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 4-2, 2.92), 5:11 p.m. PT
Saturday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 3-5, 4.73) at White Sox (John Danks, 3-3, 2.94), 12:55 p.m. PT
Sunday: Angels (John Lackey, 1-0, 1.29) at White Sox (Jose Contreras, 5-3, 3.17), 5:05 p.m. PT
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.