Angels-Athletics Preview

After the Los Angeles Angels derailed Oakland's pursuit of an AL West title, the division champions are trying to inch closer to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs at the Athletics' ballpark.

The division foes meet Tuesday night in the second of a three-game series with Oakland trying to build on its wild-card lead.

The A's (86-70), who lead Kansas City by one game and own a three-game cushion over Seattle, are trying to win three straight for the first time since Aug. 7-9 after kicking off the series on a positive note with a six-run first inning in Monday's 8-4 win.

The Angels (96-61) had won five straight over Oakland, but they remain 2 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore for the top spot in the AL despite the loss.

They've now dropped back-to-back games but haven't let anything stretch beyond that since a four-game skid Aug. 5-8. Mike Scioscia's club has won just three times in nine games and allowed some crooked numbers in that time with a 5.29 ERA.

"I think it's important to play and keep your edge," Scioscia said. "Naturally, these games have bearing on all the teams."

Offensively, Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer and has left the yard twice in three games with six RBIs.

He hasn't had that kind of success against Sonny Gray (13-9, 3.28 ERA), who will try to win for the first time in six starts. The previous five resulted in a 0-2 record and 4.78 ERA after Thursday's 7-2 loss to Texas featured five runs - four earned - and eight hits allowed by the right-hander over five innings.

"I just dug us in a hole a little bit too deep," Gray told MLB's official website. "If you give up four in the first, nine times out of 10 you're not going to recover."

The winless run began against Los Angeles on Aug. 28 with Gray not factoring into the decision of a 4-3 road loss after surrendering three early runs and six hits in seven innings. Other outings in the series have been more successful for Gray, who is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance.

Gray has held Kole Calhoun to one hit in 14 at-bats, while Pujols is 1 for 10. Howie Kendrick is 5 for 12, Erick Aybar 4 for 11 and Mike Trout 4 for 11 with two home runs.

Kendrick was out Monday after injuring his left hamstring a day earlier, though the second baseman said he's healthy enough to play.

For the Angels, Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.24) will make a second straight start after holding Seattle to three hits in 5 1-3 scoreless innings of Thursday's 3-1 loss.

"That's the life of a swing man, long reliever, spot starter," LeBlanc said. "Any time they want to give me the ball, I'm ready for it."

The 30-year-old has had a strong month, giving up a run in 11 2-3 innings over six outings with the last 10 1-3 being scoreless.

"I'm starting to settle in a little bit, get a little more comfortable mechanically and then pitching to my strengths more than trying to force the issue with certain pitches in certain counts," LeBlanc said.

Oakland hasn't been as kind, tagging the left-hander with a 7.84 ERA in a 2009 start and two relief appearances this season. Josh Donaldson is 4 for 4 with two home runs against LeBlanc.

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