The hottest team in the American League guns for a sixth straight win on Sunday as the LA Angels of Anaheim prepare to close out a three-game series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Winners of seven of their last 10, the Angels finally seem to be living up to their pre-season billing, yet they are still five games under .500 and nine games out of contention in the American League West. While Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton continue to have their issues, combining to go just 1-for-7 with one run scored on Saturday, the Angels still came away with a 7-2 road win.
Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo and Chris Iannetta each knocked in a pair of runs for the Angels, the latter coming up with his sixth home run of the campaign. Also going deep for LA was Howie Kendrick, his ninth, as he scored twice for the visitors.
Angels starter Joe Blanton tallied just his second win in 12 decisions as he allowed two runs on three hits and a couple of walks, adding six strikeouts along the way, but still his ERA hovers in the range of 5.00 at the moment.
Hamilton, who is batting a mere .221, did come up with a double and a walk in the outing but, more importantly, made a couple of clutch defensive plays in order to keep Houston from gaining any momentum.
"The defense did a great job and I had some runs to work with early," said Blanton, who made it through seven innings. "It's nice to have [the outfielders] go get it for you and it gives you more confidence to attack the zone."
While Blanton was celebrating a rare win, his counterpart Jordan Lyles was being charged with the loss for Houston. Lyles gave up four runs on five hits and two walks in just four innings of action.
"I walked a couple of guys and hit a couple of guys and just put myself behind the eight ball," Lyles said. "My secondary stuff has to be good if I'm going to lean on my secondary stuff and forget about the fastball. I've never done that before, so I'm going to need that fastball to be there, and it will in five days."
Brett Wallace may have struck out three times, but he was also the lone source of offense for the Astros when he delivered a one-out, two-run home run to left in the seventh inning. Chris Carter, who scored in front of Wallace, contributed with a single and walked twice for a Houston team which has lost two straight and four of the last five, en route to the worst record in the AL.
Gunning for his fourth win in as many starts, C.J. Wilson takes the ball for the Angels on Sunday afternoon. The left-hander, who lost his last matchup against Houston earlier this month and is now 1-2 versus the Astros in 2013, last pitched on Tuesday versus Detroit but only made it through five innings.
Wilson allowed five runs on seven hits and a couple of walks against the Tigers, but because the LA offense was highly productive he was still able to come away with the victory, his seventh of the season.
Now just one strikeout shy of 900 for his career, the California native has a marks of 4-3 to go along with a pair of saves in 17 all-time appearances against Houston.
As for the Astros, Lucas Harrell has been penciled in as their starter today. Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, Harrell has alternated wins and losses through his last five decisions, the most recent of those being a setback versus St. Louis at home on Tuesday.
Against the Cardinals, the right-hander was knocked around for seven runs on seven hits and four walks, striking out five in just 3 1/3 innings of action.
Harrell has faced the Angels twice already this season and both times the Astros were dealt a loss and he did not factor into the decision.
Despite the setback on Saturday, the Astros still own a 7-5 advantage in the season series with LA.