(Sports Network) - A pair of 2009 postseason participants seeking to get back to the top of their respective divisions square off in a three-game series that begins tonight at Anaheim's Angel Stadium, where the defending American League West-champion Angels play host to the Colorado Rockies.
Neither club is in first place at the moment, but both remain in striking distance in their division standings. The Rockies sit fourth in the competitive National League West, four games back of front-running San Diego, while the second-place Angels are currently 4 1/2 games behind the scorching Texas Rangers in the AL West.
Anaheim has lost ground to the Rangers, a team riding an 11-game winning streak, despite having prevailed in five of their past seven contests. The Angels took the first two tests of their just-completed series with the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers before being dealt a 10-6 defeat by their crosstown rival last night.
The Dodgers rocked Angels starter Scott Kazmir (7-6) for five runs in the top of the fourth inning to end a string of four consecutive winning efforts for the left-hander. Kazmir also walked three and hit a batter before exiting after only 3 2/3 frames.
"My fastball command wasn't there, but I had a good feel with other pitches," Kazmir said. "Hitting [James] Loney and walking [Russell] Martin in the fourth was big. You can't give guys free bases."
Despite failing to come up with a sweep, the Angels have still won five of their past seven series and are 15-6 since June 2.
Colorado is also 5-2 over its past seven games and enters this series off a strong showing against visiting Boston. The Rockies handed the surging Red Sox back-to-back losses on Tuesday and Wednesday before coming up short in an extra-inning slugfest in last night's finale. Boston claimed a 13-11 verdict on Dustin Pedroia's two-run homer off Huston Street with two outs in the top of the 10th.
The Rockies sent the contest into extra frames by scoring three times during the eighth and ninth innings. Jason Giambi's pinch-hit single in the eighth brought Colorado within 11-9, while Brad Hawpe delivered a two-RBI hit with one out in the ninth to tie the score.
"That's some game, that's some series," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said afterward. "Obviously I haven't been around here since the inception of this ballpark (Coors Field), but I think you might be hard-pressed to find a better three-game series that was played between two clubs."
Hawpe also had a two-run single in his first at-bat, with both Todd Helton and Ian Stewart contributing two RBI for the Rockies. Jonathan Herrera paced Colorado's 18-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
The heavy-hitting Rockies will take their swings tonight off Jered Weaver, who's been one tough customer on the Angel Stadium mound this season. The standout right-hander sports a 1.85 earned run average along with a 2-1 record in six home assignments thus far in 2010, with opponents hitting just .212 off him in those games.
Weaver also owns a 2-0 mark and 2.37 ERA in three interleague starts this year and is coming off a dominating performance over NL Central member Chicago last Saturday. The former first-round pick limited the Cubs to a mere two hits over seven shutout innings and struck out 11 batters, bringing his AL-leading total to 107 for the season.
The 27-year-old, who's never previously faced the Rockies, has won three of his last four starts and has gone 7-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 15 outings this year.
Jeff Francis gets the call for Colorado and will be taking the hill for the eighth time since missing the season's first month-and-a-half while recovering from shoulder surgery. The left-hander has been pitching well as of late, working into the seventh inning in three straight starts and posting a 3.10 ERA over that time frame.
Francis has registered a win and two no-decisions over that three-game stretch. He defeated Toronto on June 19 after surrendering three runs (two earned) on five hits over seven innings, then allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 frames while not factoring in the final outcome of Saturday's 8-7 win over Milwaukee.
The native Canadian also got a no-decision in his lone career matchup with Anaheim, which took place at Angel Stadium in 2006. Francis gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings that night.
Colorado took two of three from the Angels in that 2006 series, but Anaheim returned the favor with two wins in three bouts against the Rockies at the Big A last season.