Angels, Dodgers renew turf rivalry

Angels, Dodgers renew turf rivalry

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's the Dodgers and the Angels again, the battle for Los Angeles' affections staged in Orange County this time.

It's the Dodgers trying to get even, having dropped two of three at home against the outfit run by their former catcher, Mike Scioscia, at Dodger Stadium in late May.

For Scioscia, a master of staying in the moment and making sure his athletes are there with him, it's just another three-game series. He'll tell you until he's a shade of Dodgers blue in the face that it holds no more meaning in the big scheme than any other three-game series. But when you grow up in a place, learn your craft in a place, flourish in that place, and now are competing against the team that occupies that place ... well, draw your own conclusions.

The Angels are 8-1 against the National League, losing to the Dodgers in 10 innings on May 23 in the middle game of that initial Interleague series. The Angels came back in dramatic fashion to take the series finale, 10-7.

At home last weekend, they beat up on the Padres in a three-game sweep, scoring a total of 26 runs with nine homers, and they kept pounding away against the Giants with 17 runs on 31 hits in the first two games before rallying late against the great Tim Lincecum in Wednesday's series finale.

Scioscia certainly appreciates the sound of all those extra-base hits the Angels have been cranking out since dismantling San Diego, but it's the versatility of the club's attack that he believes makes it well suited for the league he played in for more than a decade.

The Angels lead the American League in infield hits and are first in the Majors in going from first to third on singles. Only the Rays have stolen more bases.

"From an offensive end, I don't think we're a traditional American League club with the DH," said Scioscia, who sends Joe Saunders out against Chad Billingsley. "Other than with Vlad [Guerrero] now [as he recovers from a torn chest muscle], we've never really had that look.

"We've got guys who rotate there, which gives you flexibility in National League parks. I think it helps us maybe sometimes more than some American League clubs going in a National League park. You see Boston with David Ortiz in his heyday killing the ball having to come out of the lineup, a guy like Jim Thome in Chicago ... that takes something out of the middle of those lineups.

"I think that gives us a little advantage. As for our pitching, we've had success against a lot of clubs."

Jered Weaver, who has mixed feelings about the prospect of facing older brother Jeff on Saturday for the first time in their lives, has done some of his best work against the team he grew up cheering for in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles.

"That'll be weird," Jered Weaver said when he first caught wind of the likelihood of Jeff Weaver getting the call for the Dodgers. "I just wish we could face each other in the batter's box. That would be fun."

Jered Weaver is 3-1 in five career outings against the Dodgers with a 1.59 ERA.

Lackey is just as good against the turf rivals with a bigger sample: 5-1, 1.50 ERA in 54 innings pitched. Lackey, who will engage Clayton Kershaw in Sunday night's finale, had a no-decision at Dodger Stadium on May 23, yielding three earned runs in seven innings.

Reduced to a pinch-hitting role in San Francisco under NL rules, Guerrero will be back in the lineup. Also expected to return is Torii Hunter, who missed most of the final two games against the Giants with bruised ribs following a collision with the AT&T Park wall in left-center Monday night. Hunter had a rally-igniting pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of Wednesday's series finale.

Guerrero has been searching for his power stroke -- just one homer in 112 at-bats with a .286 average in his recovery from knee surgery and the pectoral muscle tear. Scioscia is confident it's just a matter of time before the big bopper starts losing balls again.

"His batting practices have been incredible," Scioscia said. "He's got every bit of the bat speed we saw five, six years ago. Obviously, he's not as comfortable at the plate, but he's going to work through it.

"The only thing he's struggled with is his power numbers. That's due to timing issues and definitely pressing, expanding his zone. When Vlad expands his zone, there are balls that are going to be tough to hit. He's probably trying to do too much.

"He knows what he can do. He has to show the discipline he can to get the ball in areas he can handle. He has a bigger zone than most, but he's gone outside it."

Guerrero has begun a throwing program that he hopes will enable him to resume his place in right field. He thinks of himself as a total player and would prefer not to DH, but he recognizes that hitting four or five times a game is better than sitting and watching.

"I love to play," he said, grinning. "I'm trying to get back out there. We'll see how it goes."

Pitching matchup
LAA: LHP Joe Saunders (7-4, 3.66 ERA)
Winless in his previous three outings, having yielded 13 earned runs in 18 innings, Saunders was back in All-Star form against the Padres on Saturday night. He came within two outs of a complete game, holding San Diego to one run on eight hits, walking one and striking out five men. He'd issued five walks in six innings in his previous start in Detroit, so his command was back. Saunders is 1-1 in two career outings against the Dodgers with a 2.92 ERA.

LAD: RHP Chad Billingsley (9-3, 2.72 ERA)
Billingsley allowed three runs -- two earned -- over seven innings against the Rangers on Sunday and earned his ninth win of the season, tying him for the NL lead. He has been a workhorse this season, throwing at least six innings in 13 of 14 starts and lasting at least seven innings in eight starts. Billingsley has allowed fewer than four earned runs in all but one appearance this year. On the road this season, he is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts. Billingsley is 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in five career games -- three starts -- against the Angels.

Tidbits
Carlos Ramirez, the Angels' eighth-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, stroked a two-run homer that gave Arizona State a 4-0 lead in Tuesday night's College World Series. But Texas rallied back to beat the Sun Devils, who need a win Thursday night to stay alive in the championship hunt. ... Right-hander Trevor Bell, the Angels' 2005 top Draft pick (No. 37 overall), continues to make a strong impression. Bell, 22, from Crescenta Valley High School in the Los Angeles area, threw a two-hit shutout against Colorado Springs on Tuesday night after getting called up to replace Sean O'Sullivan. With Bobby Wilson behind the plate calling the pitches, Bell did not walk a batter in facing the minimum 27 batters. O'Sullivan, who returned to Salt Lake after winning his Major League debut in impressive fashion with seven innings (one earned run), was replaced on the Angels' staff by reliever Rafael Rodriguez. If Ervin Santana (right forearm tightness) has to go on the disabled list, O'Sullivan figures to be back in Anaheim for a start Tuesday night against the Rockies.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
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•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-W

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 7-2, 2.08) vs. Dodgers (Jeff Weaver, 3-1, 3.72), 6:05 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Angels (John Lackey, 2-2, 6.10) vs. Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 3-5, 4.13), 5:05 p.m. PT
• Monday: Angels (TBD) vs. Rockies (TBD), 7:05 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.