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Royals-Angels Preview

May 10, 2009 - 5:24 AM By JON PALMIERI STATS Editor

Kansas City (18-12) at Los Angeles (14-14), 3:35 p.m. EDT

Despite an injury-riddled rotation that contributed to a very slow start, the Los Angeles Angels are right about where they were expected to be - near the top of the AL West.

The Angels seek a season-high fourth straight victory and a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.

With four division titles in the past five years, there was little reason to believe the Angels wouldn't continue that success this season despite losing Mark Teixeira, Garret Anderson and Francisco Rodriguez to free agency.

Los Angeles (15-14) still had one of the league's best rotations to fall back on with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. Lackey (right elbow inflammation) and Santana (sprained right elbow), however, have yet to pitch this season, and the Angels also endured the tragic death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart on April 9.

Those absences and an injury to star outfielder Vladimir Guerrero led to the Angels dropping a season-low five games under .500 on April 25. Since then, Los Angeles has won nine of 12 to move within one-half game of AL West-leading Texas.

Even facing Zack Greinke - baseball's best pitcher this season - couldn't cool the Angels on Saturday night. Greinke was outstanding again but was outpitched by Saunders, who tossed a five-hitter for his first career shutout in a 1-0 victory.

"Just for us to win like we did, it's very pleasing as a player to know that you can do something like that," Saunders said. "You know it's in you but you haven't done it yet so when it finally comes out it's very rewarding to yourself. It's just an awesome feeling."

Chone Figgins' third-inning sacrifice fly was all the offense Los Angeles needed to beat the Central-leading Royals (18-13), losers of two straight following a six-game win streak.

The Angels also are getting good news on the injury front.

Guerrero, out since April 15 with a torn pectoral muscle, should be ready to take batting practice soon and could return to the lineup in two weeks. Lackey and Santana are scheduled to make rehab starts this weekend for Triple-A Salt Lake.

"There's a possibility that they could be ready for us after their next starts, but there's also a possibility they might need another," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team's official Web site. "So we'll weigh our options after their starts."

Shane Loux (2-2, 4.30 ERA) takes the mound for Los Angeles trying to win his third straight start. The right-hander was very good again Tuesday in a 5-3 victory at Oakland, limiting the A's to one run and five hits in seven innings. He has surrendered two runs and 10 hits in his past two starts over 13 innings - both road wins.

Loux, who hadn't won in the majors since 2003 before beating Baltimore on April 29, will face the Royals for the first time since Sept. 24, 2003, with Detroit.

Kyle Davies (2-1, 5.88) looks to rebound from his shortest start of the season. After pitching at least five innings in each of his first five starts, the right-hander allowed six runs and eight hits through four innings Tuesday in Kansas City's 8-7, 11-inning win over the Chicago White Sox.

Davies has been hit hard in two of his past three starts, striking out four during that span after fanning 21 in his first three outings.

This will be his first career appearance against the Angels.

Torii Hunter is 5 for 11 with a home run and a double against Davies.