ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Houston Astros hope to extend their five-week surge by once again tormenting the Los Angeles Angels when both teams begin a three-game series Monday night at Angel Stadium.
Considered a favorite for the American League West championship, the Astros owned a 17-28 record on May 22. Since then, however, Houston has won 22 of the next 31 games to move within 1 1/2 games of the Toronto Blue Jays for the final wild-card playoff spot.
The Astros' 32-19 record since May 1 is the third best in the American League, despite the fact that the Kansas City Royals' broke their seven-game winning streak Sunday. That streak was the club's longest this year.
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"We've done everything we can to inch back to relevance but this isn't going to accomplish anything," Astros manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com when his club reached .500 on Tuesday night. "It's a good milestone because of how the season started. Yes, I'm happy with how we've continued to grind. We've shown some personality and are pretty tough.
"But I want to keep it in proper perspective. If you would have told me that we would be .500 on this date at the beginning of the season, we would have said, 'We should be better.'"
Houston reached .500 by rallying in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Angels to earn a 3-2 win. The Astros' sweep of last week's three-game series against Los Angeles not only gave them a 5-1 record against the Angels' this season. It also started their upcoming opponents' six-game losing streak that ended Sunday.
"No way will we ever give up on this year," manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. "We have more in us, with even this group of guys. Where we are in the standings doesn't matter. We still have confidence we're going to turn this thing around and get things going in the right direction."
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who earned the Angels' only win against the Astros, will start Monday night against right-hander Collin McHugh.
In eight career starts against Los Angeles, McHugh owns a 4-2 record and a 2.82 earned-run average. In his last start Tuesday against the Angels at Minute Maid Park, the right-hander allowed just two runs, five hits and a walk in seven innings while amassing six strikeouts.
Shoemaker, meanwhile, is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven career appearances against the Astros, five of them being starts. Despite collecting seven strikeouts and permitting just two walks in 7 1/3 innings during his last start in Houston on Wednesday, Shoemaker took the loss after allowing three runs on eight hits.
Shoemaker will have to contain the Astros' Jose Altuve, one of the American League's most potent offensive threats. Altuve lead the league with a .347 average and ranks second with 103 hits, 18 stolen bases and a .425 on-base percentage.
Altuve extended his streak of consecutive games in which he reached base to 29, tying a career record, on Sunday. The three-time All-Star also has hits in 16 of his past 17 games at Angel Stadium, and is batting .388 during that stretch.