The Angels have been simply surging over the past two weeks, winning 11 of their last 14 games and each of their last four series as they enter Saturday's tilt with the Royals. The scary part: They're getting much healthier, too.
David Freese, Kole Calhoun and Sean Burnett have all been activated from the disabled list within the past four days. Josh Hamilton, Dane De La Rosa and Ian Stewart are set to follow suit next week, which would put the Angels at full strength.
With all of his pieces nearly healthy, manager Mike Scioscia thinks the team could stand to elevate its game even more in the coming weeks.
"We're playing much better. We've got a ways to go. We're not firing on all cylinders. We don't have really our deep lineup together," he said. "We're getting closer to that. Our bullpen, although it's evolving, it's not the finished product. And you're always concerned with pitching depth. So at no point do you exhale during the season."
While the lineup has been without key components due to injury, the Angels have been able to rely on a stout starting rotation that entered Friday with a 3.45 ERA -- third-best in the American League -- and the most innings per start in the AL at 6.36.
On Saturday, the Angels will turn to right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who was called up from Triple-A to temporarily replace Hector Santiago (0-6, 5.19) in the rotation. In two starts, Shoemaker has bested former AL Cy Young Award winners Cliff Lee and David Price while allowing only three runs in 11 innings.
"I want to attack each game as, 'I have opportunity here. Let's roll with it,'" Shoemaker said. "I want to execute my pitches, go as deep in the game as I can and help the team win."
Opposite Shoemaker, the Royals will trot out ace James Shields, who has allowed only four runs in his previous three starts.
Shields has won 13 of his past 14 road decisions since June 28, putting up a 1.76 ERA in those games. In 12 career starts versus the Angels, the righty is 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA.
"Their lineup, one through nine, is pretty solid. They've got guys who get on. They've got guys over there who are RBI machines. And, they can play small ball as well," Shields said of the Angels. "When they get on base, there's a lot for a pitcher to deal with. Overall, it's a team to be reckoned with."
Angels: Cowgill will continue getting opportunities
The recent return of Calhoun and the impending return of Hamilton means Collin Cowgill won't be an everyday outfielder for the Angels much longer -- but that doesn't mean he won't keep seeing his fair share of playing time.
Cowgill, a righty, started in right field on Friday, with the left-handed Calhoun sitting against opposing lefty Danny Duffy as he works his way back from the sprained right ankle that forced him to miss five weeks. Scioscia said Calhoun "is too good a hitter to be platooned right now," but also noted that Cowgill should continue to get at-bats if any of the starting outfielders needs a day off or the right matchup presents itself.
The 28-year-old Cowgill entered Friday's series opener against the Royals with a .293/.391/.394 slash line, providing above-average speed and defense all the while. He has reached base safely in 27 of his 30 starts, with the Angels holding a 19-10 record in those games.
"When a guy needs a break, I'm ready to go," Cowgill said. "No one wants these guys back as much as I do, and also the rest of these guys in this clubhouse. We need them back as soon as possible because we're putting together something special as a team."
Royals: Perez close to getting back behind the plate
Catcher Salvador Perez has been sidelined for the past three games while nursing a sore hand. Kansas City manager Ned Yost described Perez as day to day, but noted that Perez was trying to take batting practice on Friday and that he could see the field as early as Saturday.
"[The hand is] still a little swollen," Yost said. "He's been swinging off a tee and in the cage, and the pain level has gone from a nine to a three."
Backup Brett Hayes has started the last three games at catcher for the Royals. Entering Friday, he was hitless through 26 at-bats.
• Kansas City outfielder Justin Maxwell, designated for assignment on May 16, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha. He hit .138 with the Royals in 14 games (eight starts).
• Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick is batting .565 against Shields, with 13 hits in 23 at-bats.
• The Angels entered Friday tied for the Major League lead with 36 first-inning runs, and their 13 comeback wins were the second-most in baseball.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.