After beating the Seattle Mariners' best arm Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Angels need to get past another troubling matchup to keep pace in the postseason race.
The Angels remain in both the AL West and wild-card pictures but could use a series win over the Mariners and Hisashi Iwakuma on Wednesday night to close the first stage of an important road trip.
Los Angeles (73-71) snapped a two-game skid with a 4-3 win over Felix Hernandez in the middle game of the series, moving 3 1/2 games back of Houston for the second wild card and four behind division-leading Texas. The club closes its 10-game trip with four against wild-card contender Minnesota and three versus the Astros.
The Angels have split the first two with Seattle (70-76) and will now try to best Iwakuma (7-4, 4.05 ERA), who is 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 11 career starts against them.
The right-hander has had two very different outings against Los Angeles this season. During a 5-3 loss April 8, Iwakuma was rocked for nine hits and five runs - four earned - in six innings, but he held the Angels to three hits over eight in a 5-0 win July 11.
The top five hitters in the Los Angeles lineup - Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, David Murphy and C.J. Cron - hold a combined .220 batting average against Iwakuma. Pujols and Murphy each have three doubles and a home run off him.
Iwakuma is 7-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his last 12 starts but gave up a three-run homer in the seventh of a scoreless game Friday to take the loss in a 4-2 defeat against Colorado.
"I don't think he hit a wall, he elevated some pitches," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB's official website. "He was throwing extremely well until then.'"
Meanwhile, Jered Weaver has gone hot and cold down the stretch for the Angels. The veteran bounced back from a hip injury with three solid starts in August before closing the month by surrendering 16 hits and 14 runs in 11 2-3 innings over two starts.
Weaver (7-10, 4.71) returned to form in his last two, limiting Texas to a run in six innings of a 2-1 loss Sept. 5 and holding Houston to two over six in a 3-2 win Friday.
His latest victory gave him 138 in his career, all with the Angels. That mark is tied with Nolan Ryan for second-most in franchise history, trailing only Chuck Finley's 165.
"I'm looking forward to getting some more wins and to us making a push here at the end of the year," Weaver told MLB's official website.
The right-hander has struggled against Seattle the last two years with a 1-3 record and 4.75 ERA in five starts. He hasn't faced the Mariners since his first outing of the season April 6, when they scored four runs against him over six innings. That 4-1 loss moved Weaver's career numbers against Seattle to 14-11 with a 3.45 ERA in 32 starts.
In a large sample size, Nelson Cruz - who hit his 42nd homer Tuesday - has struggled against Weaver with a .203 average and two home runs in 74 at-bats. In a small one, recently called-up Jesus Montero has crushed him with five hits in 10 at-bats, including four home runs. Robinson Cano adds a .372 average in 43 at-bats.