Angels-Athletics Preview

Already assured of a postseason berth, the Los Angeles Angels will play a major role in determining whether the Oakland Athletics join them.

Jeff Samardzija is certainly doing his part to get the A's into the playoffs.

Samardzija and the A's attempt to take another step toward securing a wild-card spot as they open a three-game set with the visiting Angels on Monday night.

Oakland (85-70) has seven games left to clinch a playoff spot and earn home-field advantage for the wild-card game on Sept. 30. However, those races may not be decided until this weekend since the A's hold the first wild-card spot by just a half-game over Kansas City and two over Seattle.

The winner of the wild-card game could end up facing the Angels (96-60) in the division series, and Los Angeles will have a say in which teams meet in that one-game playoff. After visiting Oakland, the Angels conclude the regular season with a three-game series in Seattle.

They've held the A's to eight runs and a .188 average while winning five straight matchups, but they're 1-5 at Oakland this season.

Samardzija (4-5, 3.13 ERA) has been victimized by poor run support over his last four starts. The right-hander has a 1.50 ERA during that stretch, but is 0-2 since he's been backed by five total runs and one or none in three of those games, including a 2-0 road defeat to the Angels on Aug. 30.

Samardzija held the hosts to one earned run and four hits with nine strikeouts in eight innings, while the A's could only muster three singles off eight Los Angeles pitchers.

Things haven't been much better over the last two starts, as Samardzija has struck out 16 in 15 scoreless innings while getting two total runs of support and watching a pair of save opportunities blown.

"No time to pout. No time to feel sorry for yourself," Samardzija said. "That's just the way it goes."

Oakland scoring nine runs during a 1-4 stretch, and nearly matched it after Josh Donaldson's third hit resulted in a two-run, walkoff homer in Sunday's 8-6, 10-inning win over Philadelphia.

"Those are the moments I always want to be in," Donaldson said after tying Matt Stairs (1999), Dave Kingman (1986) and Reggie Jackson (1971) for the franchise record of three walkoff homers in a season.

Scoring may be at a premium for Oakland since the Angels are turning to C.J. Wilson (13-9, 4.42), who is 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA over his last eight starts against the A's - 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA in five visits to Oakland.

The left-hander yielded one run in 6 1-3 innings there Aug. 23.

He enters this meeting with a 2.45 ERA while winning three straight starts, and his latest effort helped clinch the AL West for the Angels. Wilson allowed one hit with seven strikeouts in seven innings of Wednesday's 5-0 win over the Mariners.

This time, he can move the Angels closer to home-field advantage throughout the postseason, a chase the Angels lead by 2 1/2 game over Baltimore.

Manager Mike Scioscia, however, isn't ready to risk injury for that cause. He pulled second baseman Howie Kendrick late in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Texas due to hamstring tightness.

"We're trying to win ballgames," Scioscia said. "We definitely want to try to get that best overall record ... but we're going to have to be sensitive to the needs of every individual player, and that's going to take a precedent over trying to push them too hard to where some of these guys break."

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