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CHC@OAK: Wood shuts the A's down over six scoreless

On June 24, the Angels had the third-worst record in the American League, sat 11 games back of the first-place Rangers in the AL West and had a negative-14 run differential.

Since then, the Halos have won 10 of their last 12 games. They're now in the middle of the pack, finally have a positive run differential and are back to two games within .500 for the first time since the first week of the season.

Oh, and Josh Hamilton is on a 12-game hitting streak.

After an off-day Monday, the Angels will begin a two-game Interleague series with the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday.

On paper, the Angels haven't been overly impressive. As of Sunday, they ranked 15th in offense and 22nd in pitching during the month of July. But they've won close games and continued to battle after falling behind early, earning seven of their last 11 wins via the comeback.

"Our guys, they're playing hard," manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels came from four runs down to the Red Sox to earn a 9-7 win in 11 innings on Saturday night.

Joe Blanton, one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball this year, will take the mound for the Angels on Tuesday.

Blanton has posted a 4.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 11th best among qualified starters in the Majors this season. But his ERA stands at 5.14, in part due to a .349 batting average on balls in play and a problem keeping the ball in the park. He's allowed 18 homers in 17 starts this year.

"I think Joe's ability to locate the fastball is getting more refined as he's gotten into the season after that hiatus we gave him," Scioscia said recently. "That sets up the opportunity to command counts, so then he's unafraid to challenge guys when he has his command.

"You've seen him gradually improve his command and results since the first month of the season."

The Cubs have won four of their last six and have allowed just 14 runs over those six games.

They'll turn to Travis Wood, the crafty All-Star left-hander who has thrown 16 quality starts in 17 tries this season and has a 2.69 ERA, though just a 5-6 record to show for it.

Wood, 26, was acquired in the deal that sent Sean Marshall to the Reds before the 2012 season. In 266 1/3 innings since joining the Cubs, Wood has a 3.62 ERA. He's holding opponents to a .192 average this season.

With a bat in his hands, Wood has a .258 average with two homers and seven RBIs.

Angels: Hamilton returning to form
Hamilton extended his hitting streak to 12 games when he launched an eighth-inning double Sunday night against the Red Sox that fell just short of the fence before bouncing over.

He's hitting .372 (16-for-43) with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs over his last 12 games, including the game-winning homer on Saturday.

Hamilton has raised his average from .207 to .230.

Cubs: Interleague Play working out well
The Cubs knocked off the White Sox on Monday to improve to 12-6 in Interleague Play, securing a winning record against the AL for the first time since 2007.

"We've pitched really well against the American League lineups," manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, we won a big extra-inning game in Anaheim [on June 5], but we've actually swung the bats and probably scored more runs against the American League than we have against anybody else. That could be because of the pitching in our division, too."

Worth noting
• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was 1-for-5 Monday and has hit below .200 since the beginning of June, with one home run in 138 at-bats, but Sveum said the two-time All-Star will continue to be in the lineup every day. He was bumped up to the leadoff spot on Monday.

• Mark Trumbo wasn't in the Angels' lineup Sunday, but it was just a day off. Trumbo entered as a defensive replacement at first base in the eighth inning and hit a sacrifice fly. Trumbo's average has slipped to below .200 since the beginning of June, but his power numbers have still been consistent. He has 19 homers on the season. Comments