The A's and Angels will continue their dogfight for first place in the American League West on Friday when Jon Lester and Jered Weaver square off in Anaheim. The Halos have a two-game lead after a wild 4-3 win in 10 innings in Thursday's series opener.
Both teams are counting on their pitchers to step up in these crucial meetings. The last time the squads met -- a week ago at the O.co Coliseum -- Lester and Weaver did just that.
Lester allowed one run in seven innings as the A's took the middle game of the three-game set, before Weaver held Oakland to three runs in Sunday's finale to help the Angels escape with a win.
The A's can expect more of the same from Lester, who is 7-1 with a 1.64 ERA over his last 13 starts. He carries with him a reputation for shutting down opponents when games matter the most.
"No matter what type of expectation, or anything else that people put on me, I'm sure it's not going to be as high as what I put on myself," Lester said after his last outing. "I expect myself to go out there every time and throw nine shutout."
Weaver is a veteran member of a rotation trying to alleviate the absence of injured lefty Garrett Richards, who is out for the season with a torn left patellar tendon. While Weaver was solid against the A's last weekend, he has been treading water since the All-Star break. In eight post-break starts, he has a 4.41 ERA and has gone seven innings just once.
In three starts against Oakland this year, Weaver is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA. Still, the right-hander boasts 14 wins and has a chance to tie Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello for the AL lead.
On Friday night, in a game as crucial as they come during the month of August, would be a perfect time for Weaver to collect No. 15.
"There's not many times when you have the two teams with the best records in baseball that are going head-to-head and fighting for the same prize," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "What we need to [do] is pretty simple -- you want to avoid that distraction of putting too much weight on everything you do. ... You don't want to try to hit a ball 430 feet when you can only hit it 410 feet."
A's: Scribner recalled to bolster bullpen
The A's shored up their bullpen in time for Thursday's series opener at Angel Stadium by recalling right-hander Evan Scribner from Triple-A Sacramento.
Oakland was down a relief arm on Wednesday because of its decision to utilize a sixth starter in Drew Pomeranz who will now join first baseman Nate Freiman at Class A Beloit. Both will return to the A's when rosters expand Monday.
For Scribner, this is his fourth stint with the A's this year -- ninth over the last two seasons -- and he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six relief appearances over that span. He's also 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 16 saves in 40 relief outings for the River Cats.
"He's pitched in any number of roles for us," said manager Bob Melvin. He's been here with us, he knows the up-and-down thing, we can use him for length and he has done a nice job for us."
Angels: Aybar doesn't want to rest
Manager Mike Scioscia keeps mentioning how his shortstop could use a day off, but the days keep piling on, and Erick Aybar continues to play. Since returning from a right groin strain around mid-July, Aybar has started 35 straight games at shortstop for the Angels, including Thursday's series opener against the A's.
The acquisition of Gordon Beckham has allowed Scioscia to give second baseman Howie Kendrick and third baseman David Freese off their feet by starting at designated hitter on occasion, but Beckham hasn't seen time at shortstop since his Minor League days and Jon McDonald has been used almost exclusively as a late-game defensive replacement.
Aybar said he'll rest in December, when he returns to his native Dominican Republic for his usual winter break.
Right now, he wants to play.
"I don't want a day off," Aybar said in Spanish. "There's a month left, we're in first place, and we have an important series against Oakland, which we know has a good team. We have a day off Monday. I can rest then. At this point in the season, nobody wants a day off."
• Angels lefty specialist Joe Thatcher (left ankle sprain) said his bullpen session on Saturday "didn't go so well," but added: "My arm is in shape, so as soon as my ankle is ready, I'll be ready to go. There's no buildup process."
• The A's announced Thursday that Jeff Samardzija will face the Angels on Saturday and Scott Kazmir will face them Sunday, instead of the other way around as originally planned.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.