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Sep 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) reacts after hitting a double against the Houston Astros in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) reacts after hitting a double against the Houston Astros in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros are back!

A sweep of a good Baltimore club should give the Houston Astros a shot of momentum heading into a quick road trip.  Pitching was on point against the Orioles from both the starters and the bullpen, allowing only seven runs for the series.

The offense was powered by home runs, as nine of the eleven runs scored by Houston came via the long ball.  It would be nice to see this club eventually not rely on that aspect of the game, but after struggling to put a winning streak together, complaints should be at a minimum.

Houston (20-28) is now nine games back of the Seattle Mariners.  The Los Angeles Angels sit a game and a half above the Astros in AL West at 21-26.  The Angels are playing better on the road so far this year than at home, which could bode well for the Astros, who are 7-15 on the road.

Related Story: Astros’ Need to Make a Run Now Against the Angels, Dbacks, and A’s

The Angels are dealing with a slew of injuries this season.  Ace Garrett Richards is on the 60-day DL, fellow pitcher C.J. Wilson has also been on the shelf since March, SS Andrelton Simmons, C Geovany Soto, and closer Huston Street are all on the DL as well.

If the Astros can continue their home run stroke at the plate, they could make quick work of a disabled Angels squad.  LA is tied for last in the AL in home runs with 39 on the season, and could have issues catching back up to any big blows dealt by the Houston bats.

Astros fans should have some reasons for optimism after the sweep of the Orioles.  The last 20 games for the Astros have been against teams with a winning record, including facing the leaders of each AL division.  During that span, the Astros went 10-10, and now take on the Angels for three games, Arizona (21-18) for four games, and Oakland (20-28) for three.  This could be a huge stretch of games versus teams below .500 to make up for the rough April.

GAME 1: Mike Fiers (3-2, 4.35) vs. Matt Shoemaker (2-5, 6.81)

Fiers has been pitching well for the Astros.  In four of his last five starts, Fiers has not allowed more than two earned runs.  In his most recent outing, versus Texas, he was the recipient of a tough-luck loss, as he went seven strong innings against a tough Texas lineup.  He gave up two earned runs, struck out seven, and walked none.

Not giving up free passes to hitters has been key for Fiers this year.  His BB/9 is at the lowest it’s ever been in his career at 1.2. However, his H/9 is around 10, and his K/9 has been down.  If he can at least limit the hits by one or two per start, he could put up All-Star caliber numbers.

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Fiers, in two career starts against the Angels, is 0-0 with a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings of work.  Both of his starts were last season, and he gave up a total of four home runs to Los Angeles hitters.  Current Angels are hitting an even .300 against Fiers, with C.J. Cron owning two of the four long balls.

Shoemaker has had a rough 2016 but is coming off his best start of the season against Baltimore, pitching 7.1 innings of shutout baseball.  Shoemaker is just two seasons removed from being 2nd in votes for the AL Rookie of the Year award, but since 2014, Shoemaker has seen a slight decrease in velocity and an increase in his HR/9 rate.

Against Houston, Shoemaker is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA with three career starts and two relief appearances.  In his last start against the Astros in Los Angeles, Shoemaker was rocked for six runs in three innings, with Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus both homering off him.

Next: Houston Astros: Who Says They Don’t Have The Talent To Win?

Shoemaker has fared better at home in his career, sporting a 3.23 ERA in Los Angeles.  Current Astros are hitting a combined .286 against him. Scroll down below and leave general comments or ask the CTH writers questions.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

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