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Angels Hope To End Slump Against Mariners As Second Half Begins

(Sports Network) - No team was happier to see the All-Star break than the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Hopefully recharged, the Angels get their second half started with the opener of a four-game set with the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium.

The Angels headed into the break with losses in eight of their final 10 games. However, despite their struggles and injury problems, the Angels are only 4 1/2 games off the pace of the American League West-leading Texas Rangers.

Of course the Angels' hopes took a hit with the season-ending leg injury to first baseman Kendry Morales. Outfielder Torii Hunter, though, has picked up the slack in Morales' absence, belting 15 home runs and 62 RBI. However, he struggled heading into the break, managing just one hit over his final 10 at- bats.

"We know that one person is not going to fill Kendry Morales' shoes and what he brings to the team," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's the one hitter in the middle of our lineup that really makes everyone around him better. I think that speaks volume to his talents. That being said, I think that our offensive lineup -- if people can play to their capabilities -- will be deep enough for us to absorb a lot of that and to give ourselves an opportunity to score runs and support what we think is a good pitching staff."

Tonight the Angels turn to right-hander Joel Pineiro, who has gone at least six innings in each of his last nine starts and has a 6-1 record during that span. Pineiro did not get a decision in his last start before the break on Friday in Oakland, as he allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings of his team's 6-5 win.

Pineiro, who pitched the first seven years of his career in Seattle, beat the Mariners back on June 6 and is 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three games (one start) against them.

Seattle, meanwhile, was perhaps the American League's most disappointing team in the first half. With Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation, most people had the Mariners finishing first in the AL West. However, Lee missed the first month of the season with an abdominal injury and Seattle struggled offensively, putting itself in a hole that led to the trade of Lee to Texas right before the break.

At 35-53, the Mariners occupy last place in the West, 15 games back of the Rangers. Seattle headed into the break having lost nine of its last 11 games.

"Obviously there have been some challenges and disappointments," Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. "As we go forward, we feel like we need to get over some hurdles offensively."

Seattle will hand the ball tonight to righty Doug FIster, who is 3-4 with a 3.09 ERA. Fister did not get a decision the last time he pitched back on July 7 against Kansas City, but gave up just one run and six hits in six innings of his team's 7-3 loss.

Fister is 1-0 in two starts against the Angels with a 2.51 ERA.

The Angels are 7-2 against Seattle this season and have not lost a season series against the Mariners since 2003.