Back-to-back wins on Thursday and Friday in Anaheim have extended the Angels' lead in the American League West to three games with two still to play in this crucial series.
Oakland starter Jeff Samardzija will try to play the role of stopper on Saturday when he takes the mound at Angel Stadium. The righty allowed two runs on six hits over eight innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts in his last start against the Astros on Monday. It was the second time this season Samardzija totaled double-digit strikeouts, having also fanned 10 on May 26 in San Francisco with the Cubs.
Samardzija had surrendered a combined 11 runs in his previous two starts spanning just 10 innings, including seven runs in an outing against the Mets on Aug. 20, leading to a lengthy meeting with pitching coach Curt Young. The two worked on keeping the pitcher's hands closer to his body at the start of his delivery.
They also put in work on his split-finger fastball, which Samardzija turned to often mid-count for a strike Monday.
"Those two things combined, it got me back in the zone," Samardzija said. "I took that last one pretty personally and wanted to come out and have a good one and get back into my groove and how I do things.
"I got to give a lot of credit to Curt. After that last start, I kind of wanted to overhaul a lot of things, and Curt brought me back and was like, 'Hey, it wasn't that bad. There are a couple things we need to work on.'"
Samardzija will take on right-hander Cory Rasmus, a dependable reliever for the Angels who will be making his first Major League start. Manager Mike Scioscia didn't announce the decision to start Rasmus until after Friday's 4-0 win.
Rasmus threw a career-high 51 pitches over 2 2/3 innings Monday in his last outing and didn't rule out exceeding 60 pitches on Saturday.
"I'm going to go out there and go as long as I can and see if I can get some outs," Rasmus said. "My job ain't really to go out there a throw a CG, obviously, it's to throw a couple of innings, maybe a few, whatever. Go however long I can, as hard as I can and help the team to another [win]."
It will be the second time injured starter Garrett Richards' rotation spot has come up for the Angels. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc gave up six runs over 3 1/3 innings in a loss to Miami on Monday.
A's: Lowrie eyes Labor Day return
Barring any setbacks in a two-game rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento this weekend, shortstop Jed Lowrie is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Monday's home matinee with the Mariners.
Lowrie, who has been on the DL since Aug. 14 with a fractured right index finger, is slated to play seven innings with the River Cats on Saturday and nine on Sunday.
"He's a key part of our club, a two-way shortstop guy that's an everyday player for us, a switch-hitter who's a run producer," manager Bob Melvin said. "You've seen that over the last couple of years. So there are certain guys that you miss more so than others, he is one of those guys that's an important cog for us, so it'll be nice to get him back."
Angels: Injured Richards returns to team
Richards rejoined the Angels for the first time since he tore his left patellar tendon on Aug. 20 in Boston. The 27-year-old flame-throwing right-hander will miss the rest of this season (and potentially part of next year) as knee surgery will sideline him for six to nine months.
"The first couple of days were rough," Richards said. "You go from a routine of coming to the yard every day to being stuck on the couch. I went through the phase of 'Why did this happen to me?' and you kind of get past that and it's time to move forward, it's time to address this, it's time to get back on the field."
Richards was having a career year, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in his first full season in the rotation. His improvement has left the Angels with a major hole in their rotation.
"Obviously, right now, we're trying to piece that together and that's rough because that's my day," Richards said. "That's usually the day that I go and work. It's a little bit frustrating to see us having to struggle to fill that void. We got great guys on this pitching staff who can piece it together for a day. I think we'll be OK."
• The Angels outrighted reliever Dane De La Rosa on Friday, opening a spot on their 40-man roster.
• Five of the eight games between the A's and Angels in Anaheim this season have been decided by one run.
Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.