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LAA@DET: Greinke fans five over 7 2/3 strong innings

The Angels may be struggling to meet sky-high expectations this season, fighting to get back into a Wild Card race that some pundits had anointed them the winners of months ago.

But when they play the Red Sox this season, the Halos have been an absolute juggernaut.

On Thursday, the Angels look to complete a season-series sweep of the Red Sox, which would mark the first time in history that they've won every game in a season against Boston.

Of course, this year's six-game season series equals the fewest number of meetings in a season between the two clubs. But the Angels have owned the slumping Sox, sweeping them in Boston earlier this month and taking the first two games this week in Anaheim.

The Angels, who sit 3 1/2 games back -- needing to jump three teams -- in the American League Wild Card race, send right-hander Zack Greinke to the hill Thursday. Greinke made his best start as an Angel in tossing 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against Detroit on Friday.

The Halos acquired Greinke (11-5, 3.87 ERA) in a July deal that they thought would help put them over the top in the AL Wild Card race and maybe even get them back in the hunt in the AL West. But Greinke has struggled, posting a 5.22 ERA since the trade, and so have the Angels.

"By and large, I think Zack's shown us the things he's capable of," general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Greinke. "Not everyone's going to go out there and be Cy Young every outing. We're hopeful that he's settled in, and that he's in a good place, and that we get a quality month out of him in September, as well as everyone else."

Opposing Greinke will be left-hander Jon Lester, who is riding a season-high three-game winning streak. After struggling through the season's first four months, Lester (8-10, 4.98 ERA) has posted a 3.12 ERA in August.

"Now I'm just winning, and winning cures everything," said Lester, who has posted a 5.02 ERA in three starts at Angel Stadium. "I've been feeling good with the adjustments we've made, and how we've made adjustments as far as my pitch selection and coming after guys."

Lester was removed in the eighth inning his last time out after he reached for his left hamstring following a pitch.

Red Sox: Bard set to be activated
Red Sox right-hander Daniel Bard is expected to be activated for Thursday's game in Anaheim, after he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in June.

Bard, who was unsuccessful in his transition to the rotation this season, has spent the last two months struggling in the bullpen for Pawtucket to the tune of a 7.03 ERA in 31 appearances.

Despite the ugly numbers, Bard said he has turned a corner recently and that his time in the Minors was worthwhile.

"It just gave me a chance to work on some things without too much consequence in the results," Bard said. "I worked on accomplishing some really good things, and I'm headed in the right direction, and now I just need to get back in a competitive environment and focus on competing with the hitter."

Angels: Richards adjusting to new role
There's a chance right-hander Garrett Richards could make a vital impact for the Angels in the Wild Card race over the next month and a half. He certainly has the stuff to do so.

But first, Richards will have to adjust to his new role in the bullpen, where he has allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings since being recalled last week.

"It's a big adjustment, obviously, for a guy who's been a starter to go to the bullpen, and Garrett's got to make a quick study of it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully his arm will play in the bullpen to help us moving forward."

Worth noting
• The lifetime series between these two teams has been defined by streaks recently. In the last five seasons there have been four winning streaks of six or more games -- two by each club.

• Torii Hunter is hitting .368 with a .632 slugging percentage in 19 at-bats against Lester, while Vernon Wells and Howard Kendrick have struggled against him, hitting below .200.

• Despite a 2.88 ERA in his career when facing Boston, Greinke is just 1-4 against the Red Sox.

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