The home team has held serve through the first three games of the 2013 edition of the Freeway Series. Looking to keep that trend alive Thursday night at Angel Stadium, the Halos seek a split of their home-and-home Interleague slate against the crosstown rival Dodgers.
Veteran southpaw Ted Lilly gets the ball for the Dodgers, making his second start since returning from the disabled list (right rib cage strain). He was solid on Saturday against St. Louis at home, allowing two runs on two hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"I wasn't all over the place, but my command wasn't as good I would like it to be," Lilly said. "I still have a ways to go as far as sharpness. I missed out over the plate quite a bit. Fortunately, I got away with it. But with that said, I think it's best I've thrown the ball in a long time, too."
In his career, Lilly is 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 11 career starts against the Angels, who also send a left-hander to the mound on Thursday night.
Jason Vargas (4-3, 3.43 ERA) got an extra day of rest because of Jered Weaver's return to the rotation on Wednesday night. He's been flat-out dominant in his past five starts, posting a 4-0 record and a 2.25 ERA.
Against Kansas City on Friday, Vargas went 7 1/3 frames, allowing five hits and two runs. But he has struggled a bit in the past against the Dodgers, having posted a 5.03 ERA.
He'll contend with an underacheiveing L.A. lineup, and no Dodgers hitter has had a more disappointing first couple of months than Matt Kemp. The two-time All-Star center fielder is hitting just .143 in his last 42 at-bats, dropping his average to .251 on the season and his OPS to a paltry .640.
To make matters worse, Kemp was removed in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game with a mild right hamstring strain. He's scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
The Angels, meanwhile, have a handful of hitters trending in the opposite direction, including second baseman Howie Kendrick, who is hitting .370 in his last 15 games.
"When he gets comfortable in the batter's box -- and he is now -- you see the way he can use the whole field," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Right now he's comfortable, he's going gap to gap, line to line. He's at his best when he is using the middle of the field."
Dodgers: Ramirez set for rehab
• Injured Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez took to Twitter on Wednesday, announcing that he'll begin a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night in Bakersfield.
Ramirez hoped to begin his rehab on Thursday, but the Dodgers pushed it back to Friday following his workout at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, though the club said he did not suffer a setback.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Ramirez needs to play around four rehab games, which would put him on track to be activated during a three-game series against the Padres at Dodger Stadium that begins on Monday.
Angels: Hamilton returns
• After missing Tuesday's game because of back spasms, slugger Josh Hamilton was back in the lineup Wednesday night, batting fifth. He went 0-for-3.
"I made a swing and just felt it grab me," Hamilton said. "I've had it happen before. Same spot. When it happened, I knew exactly what it was and knew that in a few hours it would subside. I'm sore today, feel it a little bit, but it's nothing that's going to keep me out."
• In 14 at-bats against Vargas, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has five hits, including two doubles. Jerry Hairston has also hit the Angels southpaw well, with four hits -- three for extra bases -- in eight at-bats.
• The Halos have outscored their opponents, 41-19, in the first inning this season, the largest run differential in the Majors.
• Gonzalez is 19-for-42 with runners in scoring position this year.