(Sports Network) - The Angels won the American League West five times during Vladimir Guerrero's six seasons with the club, but a subpar 2009 led to Los Angeles letting him walk as a free agent following season's end.
Now in a Rangers uniform, Guerrero will try to prevent his former club from cutting into Texas' hold on the division's top spot as the Rangers and Angels kick off a three-game set tonight in Anaheim.
After beginning his career with Montreal, Guerrero spent 2004-09 with the Angels and hit .319 with 173 homers and 616 RBI. He batted .337 in his first season with the club to go along with 29 homers and 126 RBI and an AL MVP award.
The 35-year-old was limited to just 100 games last year due to a variety of injuries and connected on just 15 homers and 50 RBI, but he has already reached those totals in 71 games this year, posting 15 homers and 60 RBI.
The designated hitter went 4-for-8 with a homer and three runs scored during a two-game sweep at home versus the Angels back on May 17-18, but returns to Anaheim for the first time this year tonight with his new team 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the division standings.
"It was quite good with all the fans over there and with my teammates," Guerrero told the Rangers' website. "I didn't have any problems with anyone. So that's why I don't know what the reaction is going to be, now that I'm going back for the first time."
All eyes should be on Guerrero, at least until Josh Hamilton comes to the plate. Hamilton comes to town riding a career-best 21-game hitting streak, a run he extended with a two-run homer in Sunday's 10-1 home victory over the Astros. His blast went 468 feet, good for the second-longest homer hit in Rangers Ballpark history.
Hamilton matched a team record for most hits in a month with 47, while Tommy Hunter gave up just one run over six innings. That outing helped Texas to its 13th win in 14 games and its best start after 75 games. At 46-29, the club surpassed the 1996 team's 45-30 mark and has won a franchise-record tying eight straight series.
"We played well [Sunday]. Tommy threw the ball extremely well, bullpen came in and did a great job. We strung together some decent at-bats against a really good pitcher," said Michael Young, who also homered..
Hamilton is hitting .477 (41-for-86) with nine homers, 28 RBI and 20 runs scored over his hit streak. He is a career .309 batter in 32 games versus the Angels with six home runs and 24 RBI, but has never faced Los Angeles starter Joel Pineiro.
Pineiro has won his last four starts, allowing just a single run in each of his previous three outings. He struggled early on Wednesday versus the Dodgers, but worked around six hits over 7 1/3 innings of a 2-1 victory, retiring 14 straight at one point.
The 31-year-old righty is 7-6 and has lowered his earned run average nearly a point over his win streak, from 5.16 to 4.21.
Pineiro is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in eight home starts this year and 7-5 with a save and 4.95 ERA in 27 games (14 starts) lifetime versus the Rangers.
He'll start opposite of Texas' Scott Feldman, who had won three of his previous four starts before yielding five runs and 12 hits in a no-decision against the Pirates on Thursday. He fanned seven over his six-inning start and is 5-6 with a 5.32 ERA.
Feldman, a 27-year-old righty, went 3-1 with a 4.13 ERA in five starts last year versus the Angels, who have won seven of their last 10 to keep pace with the Rangers.
Los Angeles powered its way past Colorado on Sunday, getting a three-run homer from Mike Napoli in the fourth inning and grand slam off the bat of Brandon Wood during the eighth frame of a 10-3 rout.
"I haven't put a swing on the ball like that all season," Wood said. "I was looking for something up the middle. I think it was an offspeed slider. The guys know it's been tough for me this season, and they were great when I got back in the dugout."
The victory improved the Angels to 4-2 on their 12-game homestand.
The Rangers swept a brief two-game series in Texas over the Angels on May 17-18 and split the 10 meetings in Anaheim a season ago.