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Angels try to avoid worst start in team history against Astros

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have matched their worst start in team history. They'll try to stop a five-game losing streak on Saturday when they continue a three-game set with the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium.

Los Angeles' struggles continued on Friday, as Bud Norris scattered three hits and struck out five over seven scoreless innings to lead Houston to a 5-0 win. Rick Ankiel collected two hits and three RBI, while Justin Maxwell smacked a solo shot and knocked in two overall for the Astros, who have won three straight.

Norris (2-1) walked just two and held the Angels without an extra-base hit in the contest. Hector Ambriz, Wesley Wright and Rhiner Cruz combined to keep the Halos off the board over the final two frames to complete the shutout.

Tommy Hanson (1-1) was tagged for five runs on eight hits and two walks over five frames to absorb the loss for the Angels, who fell to an AL-worst 2-8 on the season.

"I felt great in the bullpen," Hanson remarked. "I pitched good later, but early was no good. Putting your team in a five-run deficit after three innings is not going to get it done."

Hanson's poor outing was just the latest for an Angels' rotation that has pitched to 6.02 ERA. They've been especially bad over the course of the five- game slide, posting an 8.44 ERA, while allowing opponents to hit .350 with six homers.

Despite huge expectations, the Angels have matched their worst start in franchise history (in the expansion year of 1961) and for the first time since 2004, they've begun their season with four consecutive losses at home.

"It's really simple -- we're not pitching, and we're getting behind early," Scioscia said. "When you get behind early, it really gives the other team a chance to match up [and] use their bullpen. It gives their starter breathing room to pound the zone, change speeds at will and not worry about that one mistake."

Hoping to avoid the Halos' first-ever 0-5 home start will be righty Garrett Richards, who steps in for injured Jered Weaver. Richards has pitched to a 2.08 ERA out of the bullpen this season, but has been a starter for the majority of his minor league career.

He has made 12 starts for the Angels and is 3-3 with a 4.66 ERA.

"Long term, I think that they want me to be a starter," Richards said. "This is unfortunate for Jered and what happened, but they're going to ask me to step in, so I'm going to step in and do my job.

"This isn't going to be a big change. Pitching is pitching."

Getting the call for the Astros will be righty Lucas Harrell, who has lost both of his outings. After pitching well in a loss to Texas, Harrell was hammered by the Oakland Athletics on Sunday to the tune of eight runs in 4 1/3 innings.

"When you have bad starts, the next start can't come soon enough," Harrell said. "It's one of those things where you want to get back out there and throw the ball again so you have a better feeling about yourself."

This is Houston's first visit to Anaheim since 2007 when the Angels took two of three. The Astros had won two of three the first time they squared off in 2004.