Astros need to avoid sweep to keep playoff hopes alive

HOUSTON -- This wasn't how the weekend seemed destined to play out, not with the Houston Astros in dogged pursuit of a postseason berth as an American League wild card and not with the lowly Los Angeles Angels playing out the string in a disappointing season.

On Saturday night, the Angels set the stage for a series sweep on Sunday with a 10-4 victory over the fading Astros (81-74), scoring nine runs in their final two at-bats to erase a three-run deficit and stun Houston for a second consecutive game.

In dropping their third successive game to the Angels, the Astros fell three games behind the Orioles for the second wild-card spot with seven games to play. Also between the Astros and Orioles are the Tigers (83-71) and Mariners (81-73), a sour turn of events for the Astros after they entered the weekend one game out of the postseason and hosting a team they'd defeated 11 times in 12 meetings.

"Obviously, it's tough," said Astros right fielder George Springer, who finished 4-for-5 with a triple and an RBI. "This is a tough stretch for us, but that's a good team over there. You can never count them out. They always play us tough and they have the last three days. But we have to come out tomorrow and it has to happen."

Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove (3-4, 4.42 ERA) will make his first career start against the Angels (69-86) looking to help the Astros avert the sweep. Musgrove allowed one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings on Sept. 20 at Oakland while pitching Houston to a 2-1 win.

Musgrove has enjoyed a strong start to his career at Minute Maid Park, surrendering just six runs in 29 innings in five appearances (four starts) at home.

Like Musgrove against Los Angeles, Angels right-hander Daniel Wright (0-4, 7.48 ERA) will make his first career appearance against the Astros. Wright, claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 4, will make his fourth appearance for the Angels, his eighth appearance overall and sixth start on the season.

Wright made his Angels debut on Sept. 10 against the Rangers and did not factor in the decision. He made his major league debut with Cincinnati on May 24 at Dodger Stadium and pitched in four games (two starts) with the Reds before his release.

Behind solid starts from Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer and Jhoulys Chacin, and consecutive late-inning rallies against the Houston bullpen, the Angels have built surprising momentum heading into the series finale and the final week of the season. Whether they can carry that momentum into Sunday remains to be seen, but at this juncture, the Angels have made significant strides at the Astros' expense.

"It always gives you confidence when you're playing at a level, especially when you're coming back to win some games," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But every game is it's only little story. You need to build momentum from pitch one of tomorrow's game to keep going. The first three games we've done a good job of that."