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LAA@HOU: Richards fans nine in strong start

The Angels may be the A's biggest competition in the American League West this year, but judging by the teams' meetings so far, you wouldn't know it.

Oakland has taken five of six games from the Angels in 2014, most recently earning a three-game sweep at home from May 30-June 1 that widened its division lead from 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 games.

On Monday, the Angels will try to regain ground when they welcome the A's to Angel Stadium for a three-game set.

"I think it was just a bump in the road," Angels catcher Hank Conger said of the previous series against Oakland. "We've been playing good baseball throughout the whole year. For us to be back on track, I don't think something just drastically changed. I think it was just one of those times where you hit a rough skid."

This time, they will have two stars in their lineup who were battling injuries earlier in the month. Mike Trout returned Thursday after sitting out three of four games with upper back stiffness, and Josh Hamilton returned Tuesday after missing 48 games following surgery on his left thumb.

Despite outscoring the Angels 26-11 in the last series, the A's know better than to underestimate their opponent -- especially at full strength.

"We saw a very good team, and we played as well as we could play against them at our place," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We see them so many times over the course of the season. We know them well, they know us well. Sometimes it's just a matter of how a team is playing at a particular time, but you know that, offensively, they're doing things very well."

The same three Angels pitchers who picked up losses in the previous series -- Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Jered Weaver -- will get another crack at the top offense in the Majors.

Richards had his worst start of the season on May 30 in Oakland, recording just two outs while allowing five earned runs. The right-hander bounced back with eight shutout innings against the Astros on Wednesday.

Taking the mound against Richards will be righty Jesse Chavez, who has slowed down a bit after a stellar start. After giving up four runs in six innings to the Yankees on Wednesday, his ERA climbed over 3.00 for the first time this year.

Entering Sunday, A's pitching was tops in the Majors with a 2.95 ERA.

A's: Crisp to sit at least once in Anaheim
Coco Crisp was not in the A's lineup Sunday, as Melvin continues to give him an occasional day off to deal with an ongoing neck issue.

The leadoff man did not start Friday's game, either, and Melvin plans to keep him out of the lineup at least once in Anaheim in advance of an off-day Thursday, hoping to get him back to 100 percent.

"I think, now, it's just about trying to get him a few days of rest to try to get him better," said Melvin. "He'll feel pretty good after a day of rest and then play a game and then maybe take half a step backward. So I'm going to be a little bit more proactive about getting him more rest here, so there will be some days you won't see him in the lineup."

With Crisp recovering and with right fielder Josh Reddick (knee) on the disabled list, Craig Gentry has seen increased playing time.

The speedy outfielder has made a couple of spectacular diving plays on the A's road trip, robbing Brett Gardner in New York and Nick Markakis in Baltimore.

Angels: Calhoun, Cowgill continue to platoon in right field
With Hamilton's return to the Angels lineup, manager Mike Scioscia had to make a decision: Who plays in right field?

It could be Kole Calhoun, who has started 25 games in right, or it could be Collin Cowgill, who has started 37 games across all three outfield spots. The answer so far has been both.

In six games since Hamilton's return, Scioscia has platooned the pair. Calhoun has started the four games against right-handers while Cowgill has played against lefties.

"I don't think anything has changed about our confidence if Kole's going to hit left-handers, but I do feel that Collin Cowgill, you want to keep him fresh with some at-bats instead of having him sit for a long time," Scioscia said Sunday. "Against lefties, we've played much better and Collin was a big part of that. When Josh gets a day off or when Josh DHs, we're going to have to keep Collin in the mix. But Kole will be out there tomorrow."

Against left-handers this season, Cowgill is hitting .306/.377/.452 while Calhoun is .250/.250/.375. After the right-hander Chavez, Oakland will trot out lefties Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone.

Worth noting
• The A's starting lineup on Sunday featured all three of their catchers, with Derek Norris behind the plate, John Jaso at designated hitter, and Stephen Vogt in right field.

• Oakland has homered in a season-high 16 consecutive games.

• The Angels called up right-handed reliever Cory Rasmus on Saturday, optioning infielder Grant Green to Triple-A to return to a seven-man bullpen. Comments