ANGELS (44-44) AT ASTROS (55-32)
8:10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-SW, FS-W, MLB.TV
Almost as suddenly as Houston slipped into the doldrums and surrendered a significant chunk of its lead in the American League West, the Astros have reclaimed solid footing and some momentum.
Houston will open its final series before the All-Star Game break Friday against the visiting Los Angeles Angels riding a five-game winning streak that comes on the heels losing nine of 11 games.
The Astros began the revival with consecutive walk-off wins last week to begin a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners, and then they swept the Colorado Rockies in a two-game set at Denver on Tuesday and Wednesday before getting Thursday off.
“We’re playing pretty well offensively, we’re getting pretty timely with our hitting and pretty good at-bats,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re pitching — the back of the bullpen has been very good. We’ve also had to use a variety of relievers. We’ve found ways to win and had some really important at-bats at the most important part of the game.”
Right-hander Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.86 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros. Verlander was selected to his eighth All-Star Game, and Friday will mark his final appearance of the first half.
Verlander finished 2-1 with a 4.02 ERA in June after allowing 10 home runs over six starts and 40 1/3 innings. He is 13-9 with a 3.10 ERA over 26 career starts against the Angels, including a 10-4 victory on May 5 in Monterrey, Mexico. He allowed four runs on five hits (including three home runs) plus one walk with seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.
The Angels will start an undisclosed opener ahead of right-hander Felix Pena (5-2, 4.73 ERA). Pena has made 17 appearances, including four starts, for the Angels this season and is 5-1 with a 4.92 ERA as a reliever.
Each of his past 12 appearances have been out of the bullpen, with Pena totaling 15 innings in his three most recent outings. He is 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA over two career starts against the Astros, both coming last season in consecutive starts on Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.
The Angels are 6-4 over their past 10 games following their 9-3 setback at the Texas Rangers on Thursday. They managed to win the series despite the loss in the series finale, doing so under extraordinarily trying circumstances following the sudden death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs on Monday.
With their road trip continuing in Houston, the Angels will have the opportunity to inch closer to the routine of playing games.
“The circumstances have been really tough, but the guys haven’t made any excuses,” Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy said to the Orange County Register. “We’ve played hard, played to win. That’s what Skaggsy would have wanted, and I don’t think he would have liked it too much if we were in here feeling sorry for ourselves. He wants us to battle and fight.
“We had a tough one (Thursday). We’re not gonna win them all. But I’m happy with the first two games of the series.”
–Field Level Media