The team with the worst record in the American League again tries to pick up a rare win at on Saturday when the Houston Astros entertain the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the middle test of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park.
Houston, which is struggling to make the transition to the AL this season, dropped to 20 game below .500 on Friday when it bowed to the Angelss in a 4-2 final. The defeat was the third in the last four outings for an Astros squad that also has the worst scoring differential (minus-105) in all of baseball as it sits 17 games out of contention in the AL West.
Starter Bud Norris gave Houston, which is just 16-27 at home, a solid shot at landing in the win column last night as he permitted just a single unearned run on four hits over seven innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen could not hold off the Angels, with Paul Clemens being tagged for his third loss of the campaign after allowing two runs on just two hits and a couple of walks over 1 1/3.
J.D. Martinez accounted for three of the seven hits logged by Houston, while Jason Castro delivered his 11th home run of the campaign, a solo shot, to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning.
For the Angels, who were assisted by a pair of Houston errors, Erick Aybar delivered a pair of hits and plated two for the visitors as they won their fourth game in a row. Josh Hamilton chipped in with two hits and a run scored, but still is batting a mere .220.
Mike Trout, who walked twice, registered his ninth hit in the last five games in order to keep his batting average at .316.
"There were guys up and down our lineup that played big," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the effort. "We hit the ball harder [on Norris] and finally broke through at the end with him gone."
Jerome Williams made it through 6 1/3 innings on the mound for the Angels, giving up just one run on five hits and three walks, striking out three, but it was Dane De La Rosa who was credited with the win, while Ernesto Frieri posted his 20th save of the campaign.
Yet another piece of the disappointing puzzle for the over-hyped Angels this season is pitcher Joe Blanton, who is again getting a chance to throw on Saturday, despite his horrendous first half of the campaign.
The right-hander, who began his career in the AL West with the Oakland A's back in 2004, has been simply brutal in 2013 with a record of only 1-10 and an ERA of 5.87. Now one game under .500 for his career (84-85), Blanton has taken the hill 15 times this season and only twice have the Angels come out on top.
Since claiming his first and only win back on May 23 versus Kansas City, the former Kentucky Wildcat has dropped three outings and failed to figure into the last two contests completely. Last weekend Blanton allowed just three runs -- one earned -- on six hits while fanning six over 7 1/3 innings, but still the team was handed a 10-9 setback by Pittsburgh at home.
Against Houston early last month, Blanton permitted three runs on eight hits, striking out six through 6 2/3 innings, but again was saddled with the loss which means he is now an even 2-2 in his career versus the Astros.
Meanwhile, Houston plans to hand the ball to third-year man Jordan Lyles, a South Carolina native who has twice as many defeats as he does wins (11-22) for his career to this point. Lyles, who is actually 2-0 in two all-time appearances versus the Angels, had won three straight decisions before going down against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley last weekend.
Lyles was beaten up for 10 hits, resulting in eight runs, of which five were earned, through five innings versus the Cubs on Sunday.
Despite the setback on Friday, Houston still leads the season series by a count of 7-4.