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LAD@LAA: Vargas throws seven strong innings, fans six

Though his team hasn't lived up to expectations, Angels manager Mike Scioscia is seeing improvement.

After a ninth-inning rally fell just short, the Angels dropped the final game of a three-game series against the Yankees on Sunday, but they still took the set and have won three of their last four.

"It's very clear if you just look at the components that it takes to win games. A lot of the components are settling and playing more consistently and we're getting more results particularly on the pitching side," Scioscia said. "The pitching has settled and we're getting better results."

If recent history is any indication, the positive results will continue as the Mariners come to town for a four-game series beginning Monday.

The Angels are 26-9 in their last 35 home games against Seattle, but the Mariners are riding a hot streak of their own.

Coming off a series win against the Athletics, the Mariners have won four of their last six contests, largely on the back of their pitching. Despite giving up 10 runs, including four homers on Sunday, Seattle pitchers have surrendered three runs or fewer in six of their last eight games.

Aaron Harang will try to extend that streak when he takes the mound Monday.

Harang is coming off his best start of the season -- a two-hit shutout against the Astros when he struck out 10 with no walks.

"He was fantastic," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "When he commands his fastball and it rides like it was [Tuesday] and he's able to leverage it downhill and climb when he wants to, he's real good. When he does that, his secondary stuff is locked in, too, and that's what you saw."

It was Harang's second shutout this season, but consistency hasn't been one of his strong points. He sports a 3-6 record on the season with a 5.60 ERA.

Jason Vargas will start for the Angels. He's 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA on the year, but has had mixed results as of late. He cruised through six innings against the Orioles in his last start, giving up just one run. Then he gave up three straight two-out infield singles in the seventh, watched Scott Downs give up the lead and was handed a loss.

He has a 4.82 ERA over his last three starts.

Seattle: Smoak, Gutierrez progress
Justin Smoak is close to rejoining the Mariners.

The first baseman, who has been out since May 29 with a right oblique strain, hasn't been ruled out for the Mariners' series against the Angels, Wedge said.

Smoak was batting .240 with three homers and eight RBIs before the injury.

Meanwhile, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, recovering from a hamstring injury, isn't quite ready to return to the big leagues.

"Smoaky's doing really good and Gut is getting better. We'll touch base with him after the game today and decide if we'll bring him right away or give him some more time," Wedge said.

Angels: Hamilton likely to remain No. 2 hitter
Despite his struggles, Josh Hamilton will likely remain the second hitter in the Angels' lineup.

Scioscia gave Hamilton the day off Sunday and put Mike Trout in the No. 2 hole, leading some to question whether a change was on the horizon. Scioscia insisted Hamilton is the club's second hitter, though -- at least for now.

"It's a week of him hitting second," Scioscia said of the small sample size. "It's worth the experiment if he moves forward and we become a better overall team, but you have to balance that with the ability to set the table for the middle of your lineup. If Josh isn't making progress, then obviously we will have to readjust, but it's worth putting a little more time into it."

Hamilton is hitting .188 with one home run and three RBIs since he was moved up in the order.

Worth noting
• Seattle ranks last in the Major Leagues with a .218 average with runners in scoring position.

• The Angels (4.02) and Mariners (4.13) have the 12th and 13th ranked bullpen ERAs in the AL, respectively.

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