MLB

Indians-Angels Preview

The once-surging Los Angeles Angels shot to the top of their division behind an offense firing on all cylinders.

Now a troubling slump is seeing them slide further into what's shaping up to be an unforgiving AL wild-card race.

Wednesday's matchup figures to be challenging too with the Cleveland Indians' Danny Salazar riding one of the best runs of his career.

The Angels (56-50) averaged 5.7 runs during a 17-3 stretch from June 27-July 22 to take a two-game lead over Houston in the AL West, but have since been held to three runs or fewer eight times while dropping 10 of 12. They trail the Astros by three games, and though they own the top wild-card spot, five clubs are within three games. Two of those teams - Tampa Bay and Texas - have won three in a row, while Toronto has won six of seven.

Just when an 11-hit performance in Monday's 5-4 series-opening victory seemed to suggest an end to the slump, Los Angeles scraped together only two singles in a 2-0, 12-inning loss Tuesday, with just one during Carlos Carrasco's nine innings. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols were both 0 for 4, falling to a combined 7 for 40 over their last five games.

They're each 1 for 3 off Salazar (9-6, 3.47 ERA), who has recorded a personal-high four straight quality starts - holding opponents to a .139 batting average - with the most recent coming in dominant fashion. He limited Oakland to one hit and an unearned run over eight innings in a 2-1 win Friday.

The right-hander wasn't missing bats as often as he usually does - striking out four after entering averaging 10.7 per nine innings - but walked only one after issuing three free passes in back-to-back starts.

Salazar experienced mixed results in two previous matchups with the Angels. He was pounded for six runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 12-3 loss on Sept. 8, but had previously held them to a solo homer over 5 1-3 innings in a 4-1 road win Aug. 20, 2013.

Cleveland (49-57) recorded 10 hits but had trouble stringing them together and struck out 13 times before going ahead on rookie Giovanny Urshela's two-run homer, snapping a three-game slide.

The Indians have had success facing Angels starter Hector Santiago (7-5, 2.70), who is 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland.

While the left-hander has already set a career high for wins, he's is looking to break out of a mini-rut, having given up eight earned runs over 10 innings in his last two starts. The nine hits he allowed over five-plus innings of Friday's 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers matched a season high. He surrendered two home runs after yielding as many in his previous six outings.

"It looked like he was searching," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Not only was he trying to find his release point to execute pitches and repeat his delivery - which he was been doing really well this year - but also searching to get back into his game plan."

Santiago hasn't lost at home since his first start of the year there April 10, going 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in 11 outings since. Houston's Dallas Keuchel, 10-0 at home on the year, is the only other pitcher to make at least 10 home starts since then without a loss.

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