Astros facing another hot team in Anaheim


Yesterday, Astros manager Bo Porter was quoted as saying the best thing about the 5-2 loss to Seattle was the fact that the Mariners were leaving town. But, as luck would have it, it looks like the Astros may have been taken out of the frying pan and thrown into the fire. Next up for the ‘Stros — a 4-game series in Anaheim against a red-hot Angels team. Are you ready for some late night baseball?

Despite being walked off by the White Sox yesterday, the Angels have won nine of their last 12 games. Mike Scioscia‘s squad has only lost once in their last 13 games at Angels Stadium. The Halos are now 47-36 on the year and atop the wildcard standings in the American League. They trail the Oakland Athletics by 3 & 1/2 games in the West.

How did they get there? Well, Mike Trout is having another typical Mike Trout season (.311/.405/.609). His 19 homers and 62 RBIs are tops on a club that leads the majors in offensive WAR. Albert Pujols, although slowed somewhat by injuries, is having a bounce-back season — as is Josh Hamilton. Youngsters C.J. Cron and Kole Calhoun have also been key contributors.

Calhoun has been one of the Angels’ hottest hitters of late, producing four multi-hit games in his last six starts. Hamilton has been rough on the Astros so far this season, going 10 for 25 with five walks and four homeruns.

It’s been sort of a mixed bag for the Angels on the pitching side of the ledger. Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson lead a starting rotation that ranks fourth in the American League with a 3.71 ERA. Wilson will be on the mound Friday against the Astros and Richards takes the hill in Sunday’s matinee finale. The Astros will miss Weaver on this trip.

Joe Smith and Hank Conger (Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports)

Meanwhile, the Angels’ bullpen ranks 11th in the A.L. with an ERA of 4.26. Struggling closer Ernesto Frieri was traded to Pittsburgh last week in exchange for Jason Grilli. The former Pirates closer is now in a setup role for newly installed ninth inning man Joe Smith — at least for now. Smith has been doing a bang-up job, successfully converting all nine of his ninth inning closing opportunities thus far including a pair of saves in Tuesday’s double-header sweep of the White Sox.

In what was a disappointing 2013 season for Angels’ fans, the Astros won the season series by taking 10 of the 19 games against the Halos. A 4-game sweep in Anaheim was one of the high points of the Astros season as well as a low point for the Angels. So far this year, the Angels have turned the tables. L.A. has won six of the ten games against Houston, outscoring the Astros by a count of 53 to 34.

Jose Altuve and company will try to get back on track tonight against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker. Brett Oberholtzer gets the start for Houston. The Astros will be without centerfielder Dexter Fowler for the series. Fowler was placed on the 15-day D.L. on Tuesday with an intercostal strain. Rookie Domingo Santana was called up and has been starting in leftfield for the last two games.

Dallas Keuchel, who missed his last start due to wrist inflammation, is scheduled to return to the mound Friday against C.J. Wilson. Keuchel has been the Astros most effective pitcher this season.

Scott Feldman opposes Hector Santiago on Saturday in what could be a high-scoring affair. Collin McHugh gets the ball on Sunday against Garrett Richards to close out the series.