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ATL@LAD: Kershaw stymies Braves in complete-game win

Southern California has baseball's best pitcher, two of its most celebrated young center fielders, its highest payroll and two of its best teams.

But ask Angels manager Mike Scioscia about the talent in this year's four-game Freeway Series and he'll tell you this is simply normal.

"The rarity is when both teams are not in contention in their division, and I think that's what makes baseball in Southern California, for the fans, so exciting," Scioscia said. "Because more times than not, you have a team in each league that is going to contend, and this year it's certainly in the forefront.

"It's another series against a good team. These guys are good, and we feel like we're playing at a level we can play at, so I don't think we're looking any deeper than that. You've got to play at a high level to beat them, and that's what we have to focus on doing."

That'll especially be the case on Tuesday night, as Clayton Kershaw, baseball's aforementioned best pitcher, takes the mound for the Dodgers, who own the National League's best record. Record-wise, he'll be facing the Majors' second-best team. His numbers aren't too shabby, either.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner was named the NL's Pitcher of the Month for the second straight month after going 4-0 in five starts with a league-best 1.07 ERA in July.

Kershaw pitched a league-high 42 innings, including three complete games, and gave up just five earned runs while posting the second-lowest opponents' batting average (.165) among qualifying NL pitchers. With 43 strikeouts, he averaged just more than one strikeout per inning.

On July 10 against the Padres, the lefty saw his scoreless streak snapped at 41 innings, which ranks as the sixth longest in the expansion era (since 1961). The 26-year-old currently has 10 straight winning decisions, tied for his career high, and is 13-2 on the season with a MLB-best 1.71 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 121 1/3 innings.

He'll try to become the Majors' first 14-game winner on Tuesday.

Tasked with opposing Kershaw will be Hector Santiago, who returns to the starting rotation since Tyler Skaggs is on the disabled list.

Santiago threw two scoreless innings against the Orioles on Thursday in his last outing.

He was tagged for one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start, July 27 against the Tigers.

Dodgers: Frias excited for first taste of big leagues
Seven years. That's how long 24-year-old Carlos Frias has waited for his first Major League opportunity.

A starter for Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque this summer, Frias found out Sunday that he'd be getting the call, replacing right-hander Chris Perez, who went on the 15-day disabled list Monday with bone spurs in his right ankle.

Frias, the Dodgers' No. 18 prospect, said he was excited for the chance -- it's been a long wait.

"I called my mom," he said. "She was very excited. She was waiting for seven years. She was emotional."

Frias was 10-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) between Chattanooga and Albuquerque, and he adds depth to a pitching staff that sorely needs it. Right-handers Dan Haren and Josh Beckett have both struggled at the back end of the starting rotation, and one of their potential replacements, Paul Maholm, is lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Frias debuted Monday night with two strikeouts in two scoreless innings.

Angels: Cowgill makes welcomed return
Here's a surprising factoid: Collin Cowgill has a higher Wins Above Replacement score than Albert Pujols. The backup outfielder has a WAR of 2.0, per FanGraph.com's system; the superstar first baseman has a WAR of 1.9.

Yes, it tends to point out a flaw in WAR, which puts a lot of weight on defensive metrics that still have holes. But it's also a testament to how important Cowgill is to the Angels.

"He's one of those players you don't really notice what he does until he's not there," Scioscia said of Cowgill, who was activated off the disabled list for Monday's Freeway Series opener.

Cowgill had been out since suffering a broken nose and right thumb during a hit by pitch on July 12. The nose hadn't been an issue for quite some time. The thumb, which didn't require surgery, felt good during a three-game rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake in which he went 4-for-12 with a couple of doubles.

"Catching was the biggest concern, because when I first started getting into baseball activities I couldn't even put my hand in my glove," Cowgill said. "I caught a pretty hard line drive last night, no problem. I needed that, just to make sure [the right thumb] was comfortable."

Worth nothing
• The Angels, at 92-48, have the best Interleague record since 2007.

• Albert Pujols' first-inning double Monday was his 550th career double, moving him into 25th place all-time, past Chipper Jones.

• Chone Figgins' (left quad) 20-day rehab clock ends Tuesday, but manager Don Mattingly didn't give any indication the team would look to call the infielder up from Triple-A Albuquerque.

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