It was about this time last year that the Angels turned the corner from their early season struggles to put themselves back on the American League West radar. They strung together a season-best eight-game winning streak from May 22-29, yet their tumultuous start ultimately proved to be too much to overcome in their bid for a postseason push.
The Halos are hoping that's not the case again this year.
They enter Sunday's series finale against the Royals having won seven straight -- their longest winning streak since that eight-game run last May. As they look to match last year's streak by completing a four-game sweep in Kansas City on Sunday, starter Jerome Williams will have his sights set on further solidifying his spot in the starting rotation.
Things have been starting to look up for the Angels not only on the field of late, but off of it as well. Ace Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) and fellow starter Tommy Hanson (restricted list) could return as soon as Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, leaving Williams' status up in the air.
Williams, who began the season as a long reliever out of the bullpen, has filled in nicely during his recent stint in the rotation. He is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA over his last three starts, while lasting at least six innings and allowing two runs or fewer in all three outings.
"Any time a pitcher puts his best foot forward, it obviously gives them the best chance to continue in a role, and Jerome's been pitching terrific baseball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We look forward to the tough decisions."
While Williams and the Angels hope to keep rolling on Sunday, the Royals will call on right-hander Wade Davis to help them snap out of a recent funk in which they've lost eight of their last nine, including four straight.
In his first season with the Royals, Davis has struggled to establish consistency on the mound. In nine starts, he has allowed seven-plus runs three times while also limiting the opposition to one or zero runs on three other occasions.
His two most recent starts have fallen somewhere in between those extremes, including a May 15 outing against the Angels in which he allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings in picking up his third victory of the year.
Regardless of his outing on Sunday, Davis has a secured role in his club's starting rotation. The same can't be said of Williams, though he hopes to take another step toward changing that on Sunday.
"The only thing a player can do -- like Jerome is doing -- is be as productive as they can be," Scioscia said. "We've got a ways to go before our pitching staff is settled -- hopefully not too long -- but in the next couple weeks."
Angels: Jepsen nearing return
While the Halos starting rotation expects to soon receive a boost from Weaver and Hanson, their relief corps should also benefit in the near future from the return of Kevin Jepsen.
Jepsen, sidelined with a right shoulder strain, hasn't pitched for the Angels since April 11. More recently, he's made three rehab appearances -- one with Class A Inland Empire and two with Triple-A Salt Lake -- and could be activated any day.
His most recent appearance with Salt Lake came on Friday night when he tossed one scoreless inning.
"His velocity was good," manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Saturday's victory. "He threw his one inning and showed some good secondary pitches, too. He'll be evaluated [Saturday] and we'll see how he came out of it."
Royals: Perez placed on bereavement list
Catcher Salvador Perez will be placed on the bereavement list Sunday after returning home to Valencia, Venezuela, on Saturday after learning of the death of his maternal grandmother. Perez was expected to return for Sunday's series finale after sitting out on Saturday as he continues to deal with a deep bruise on his right hip, and he will be eligible to remain on the bereavement list for three to seven days.
He initially sustained the injury on Monday against the Astros when he slammed into the dugout fencing while tracking a foul popup. He left that game early and sat out each of the next two contests before returning to the lineup on Thursday and collecting three hits in the series opener against the Angels. He also played Friday before getting Saturday off.
• Angels slugger Josh Hamilton, who hit his seventh home run of the season on Saturday, is 5-for-9 (.556) with two doubles, one home run and a pair of walks in his career against Davis.
• Mark Trumbo is in the midst of a career-best 10-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .350 (14-for-40) with two home runs, five doubles and seven RBIs. With a hit on Sunday, Trumbo would match shortstop Erick Aybar for the Angels' longest hitting streak this season.
• The Royals have lost four straight day games after starting the season 10-3 in their first 13 such contests.