There's an unmistakable correlation between the Angels' success against one of their key division rivals and their success overall: They've lost four straight season series against the A's, which just so happens to be the amount of time they've been absent from the playoffs.
"Any team that's in our division -- Seattle, Houston, Texas, Oakland -- those are the teams you have to beat, because they're the guys you play against the most throughout the year," Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said. "Those are the guys you have to beat, because you're probably only seeing the other teams [for one series]."
The Angels, losers of 14 of their last 20 against the A's at Angel Stadium after Monday's 3-2 loss, will send their best starter of the young season in hopes of evening the series on Tuesday night as baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day.
Garrett Richards, who has given up just one earned run in the 12 innings that have spanned his first two starts, will go up against fellow 25-year-old right-hander Dan Straily.
Richards posted a 5.55 ERA in five games (four starts) against the A's last year, but is fresh off twirling seven scoreless innings against the Mariners on Wednesday. Straily has struggled through a 5.82 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, but is off to a solid start in 2014, and is coming off pitching seven innings of one-run ball against the Twins on Thursday.
"It was kind of a weird outing," Straily, with a 2.77 ERA this season, said after what ended up being a 6-1 win at Target Field. "I definitely didn't have my best stuff, but was able to mix speeds, mix locations and just keep them off-balance and from making good contact. Even when they did make good contact, it was right at our guys. … I think it's part of learning from last year. On days I didn't have my best stuff and try to pitch like I did, it cost me."
Athletics: Sogard looms large
The Angels got a break from Eric Sogard on Monday, but chances are they'll have to deal with him in the second of the three-game series. The light-hitting infielder is a career .239 hitter, but he was a different person against the Angels last season. In 45 plate appearances versus the A's division rival in 2013, Sogard had a .386/.500/.500 slash line.
Angels: Coming out of the gate hot
It's no reach to suggest that the Angels may be the best team in baseball -- in the first inning. Heading into Monday's contest, they led the Majors with 15 first-inning runs, just before Albert Pujols put his team on the board with a first-inning RBI single. All four of Mike Trout's 2014 home runs have come in the first inning.
• The Angels lead the Majors with 21 homers, after totaling 24 in all of April 2013. Heading into Monday, 49.3 percent of the Angels' runs had come via the home run, the fourth-highest mark in baseball.
• A's starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of the first 13 games. That's the franchise's longest season-opening streak since 1981, when Mike Norris, Rick Langford, Matt Keough, Steve McCatty and Brian Kingman did it for 16 straight.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.