Athletics-Angels Preview

The Los Angeles Angels are now in control of their playoff fate thanks to one of their longest winning streaks of the year.

Before heading into a pivotal series, the Angels try to pad their slim lead with a season-best eighth consecutive victory Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics.

Los Angeles didn't have to sweat too much for its seventh win in a row, taking an early six-run lead Tuesday in an 8-1 victory. With Houston falling 6-4 in Seattle, the Angels (83-74) moved a half-game in front of the Astros for the AL's second wild card.

They also remained just two games back of AL West-leading Texas, a team they'll face four times beginning Thursday in Arlington.

"It's a good feeling. We're in a good spot right now," second baseman Johnny Giavotella said. "We've got five games to play, and we're in control of our destiny. We're going out and playing the best baseball we can, and then we're on the top step with each other - every game, every pitch."

Garrett Richards (15-11, 3.73 ERA) will seek to extend his team's winning streak heading into that series while winning a season-best third consecutive start. The right-hander has a 2.87 ERA in his past two games while receiving a combined 13 runs of support in 15 2-3 innings.

Richards yielded three runs in seven innings in an 8-4 win over Seattle on Friday and fanned eight, giving him 32 strikeouts in his last 28 1-3 innings. He has a 2.37 ERA in his last three matchups with Oakland (65-93) but was outdueled in a 3-2 defeat in his latest one June 21 after winning his previous two.

The A's head into this game having dropped nine of 10 and four in a row away from home.

Barry Zito (0-0, 18.00) will try to end that road skid in what's likely the final start of his career. The 37-year-old left-hander made his major league debut against the then-Anaheim Angels on July 22, 2000, going five innings in a 10-3 win for Oakland.

With Sonny Gray shut down for the year, Zito will pitch on three days' rest, though he didn't pitch too deep in his last one. Making his first major league stars in two years, Zito threw 48 pitches going just two-plus innings in Saturday's 14-10 loss to San Francisco, yielding four runs and six hits.

"I think he couldn't care less about how many pitches he's thrown or going on three days' rest, two days' rest, he's just eager to get another start," manager Bob Melvin told MLB's official website. "To be able to start again, he's going to be a very motivated guy, so you throw rest and pitch counts out the window with a guy like him."

Zito is 12-11 with a 4.14 ERA in 30 starts against the Angels, last facing them in June 2012. The only team he has more wins against is Texas with 18.

Albert Pujols is 8 for 20 with three homers lifetime against Zito. Mike Trout is 3 for 3 with two doubles, and Erick Aybar is 4 for 6.


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