© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

07/28/10 11:35 AM ET

Halos look to gain ground on Rangers

One week after dropping three of four in Arlington, the Angels host the Rangers for three this weekend. This time, the Halos can't afford to lose any more ground.

Since the All-Star break, the Angels have seen their deficit in the American League West nearly double. The Halos have fallen all the way back to .500 and sorely need to start making up ground on the first-place Rangers.

Friday night's opener will be a rematch of the one game the Angels won in Texas, with Ervin Santana facing Scott Feldman.

Santana was outstanding last Saturday, holding the Rangers to two runs on five hits in eight innings with eight strikeouts. The right-hander has been tremendous throughout July, completing at least eight innings in three of his four starts and allowing a total of eight runs in 31 1/3 innings.

"The story was what Ervin Santana did," said Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia. "All our starters have pitched well here. Ervin pitched a terrific ballgame."

Feldman didn't pitch poorly in taking his ninth loss of the season, but it wasn't enough against Santana. Perfect through three innings, Feldman then allowed eight of the next 14 batters he faced to reach base.

The 17-game winner in 2009 has never really found his groove in '10, and he hasn't won since June 18 -- a span of six starts. After compiling the most wins by a Rangers' pitcher since '04 a season ago, his five so far this year are only good for fifth on the team.

"Definitely, it's frustrating," Feldman said. "Tonight would have been a good night to put up zeroes. Santana was throwing good for them. In a game like that you've got to keep throwing up zeroes."

Feldman may be pitching for his spot in the rotation on Friday with Rich Harden throwing well in rehab starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Rangers: Texas owns largest division lead
Texas enters Friday night's game with the Angels with baseball's biggest division lead and the largest it has enjoyed since the end of the 1999 season -- when the Rangers made their last appearance in the postseason. The Rangers have never held a division lead larger than 10 games.

Angels: Off-day eases strain on bullpen
The Angels took advantage of Thursday's day off to get their bullpen back in order. After stretching a bit more than expected because of Dan Haren's premature exit on Monday in the fifth inning, the Halos had to piece together nine innings on Wednesday when Joel Pineiro was scratched during warm-ups with a left oblique strain. Scot Shields made the start in Pineiro's place, lasting 1 2/3 innings.

Scioscia also gave the struggling Torii Hunter off on Wednesday to give him a rare two-day break before the showdown with the Rangers.

"It's not just the All-Star Game hoopla and all that," Scioscia said. "It's playing center field and hitting cleanup. It's a tall order sometimes. Torii puts so much effort into his games. Sometimes you have to freshen up."

Worth noting
Haren said he "should be good to go" for his scheduled start on Saturday after taking a line drive off his right forearm. The news was much worse for Pineiro, whose oblique strain will cost him 6-8 weeks. ... Texas originally had Tommy Hunter slated to start on Friday and Feldman on Saturday, but the team decided to flip the two. Hunter will go Saturday against Haren with Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee facing off in a matchup of aces on Sunday. ... Neftali Feliz's 28 saves are just nine shy of the rookie record set in 2000 by Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki. ... Prior to being swept by the Red Sox this week, the Angels had gone 79 consecutive series without being swept at home, the longest such stretch since the 2003-06 Atlanta Braves went 84 series at Turner Field without being swept.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.