Lance McCullers has one lonely win since the beginning of July, but the Houston Astros' right-hander has the right opponent in front of him to change that.
McCullers' only victory in his last eight starts came against the Los Angeles Angels and he'll try to replicate that result Saturday night.
The Angels (71-69) pulled to within 4 1/2 games of the AL West-leading Astros (76-65) with Friday's 3-2 series-opening win. Texas is 1 1/2 back of Houston and three games ahead of Los Angeles for the second wild card.
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Jered Weaver pitched six strong innings to beat Houston ace Dallas Keuchel.
''It's obviously an important series, and the only way we get these guys where we need them is to beat them,'' Weaver said. ''We don't have to scoreboard watch when they're on our field, so it's a big win. Hopefully we can take another two out of this series and make things pretty interesting.''
The teams finish the season series - which the Astros lead 8-6 - with three games in Houston from Sept. 21-23.
McCullers (5-5, 3.07 ERA) has had little luck helping the Astros lengthen their division lead with a 1-3 record and 4.15 ERA since July 5. His only win during the span came from a 6-3 victory over the Angels on July 29 in which the right-hander allowed one run in seven innings. He has a 1.38 ERA in two career starts against the division foe.
Since allowing six runs while recording just one out in a 12-9 loss at Texas on Aug. 3, McCullers has logged three straight quality starts. He has a 2.70 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 innings in those games.
Los Angeles counters with Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.24), who had lost five straight decisions before allowing one hit over six innings and working around a career high-tying six walks in a 7-0 win over the Rangers on Sunday.
He escaped jams with inning-ending double plays in the first two innings.
''For some reason, I pitch better with guys on base and I bear down,'' said Santiago, who made it through five innings for the first time since Aug. 16. ''I needed this one for sure, where I can show that I can still get guys out even if I put them on base.''
Santiago is 0-2 with a 4.38 ERA against the Astros in five career starts, but he has pitched well against them in two this year. He has limited Houston to three hits and one run - a Domingo Santana home run - in 12 1-3 innings.
Jose Altuve became the fastest player in Astros history to reach 800 hits with his first-inning double Friday, his 647th major league game. Cesar Cedeno held the previous mark at 707 games.
Los Angeles' Kole Calhoun is batting .410 with three homers, eight RBIs and 10 runs in nine games this month.
Teammate Mike Trout, though, is batting .195 in 12 games this season against Houston.