Angels aim for another rare win over Astros

HOUSTON — It seemed only a matter of time before the odds finally worked against the Astros in their season series against the Angels, who entered Thursday having dropped 11 consecutive games against Houston.

In the opener of the penultimate series between the American League West rivals, the Astros (81-72) wasted a second consecutive solid pitching performance from right-hander Mike Fiers. The Angels rode a first-inning home run from Albert Pujols to a 2-0 victory and just their second win over the Astros in 13 meetings this season.

The Astros' inconsistent starting pitching carried them through a six-game road trip in which they won five times, but the one weak link of late was responsible for that lone loss in Seattle and will take the mound on Friday night looking to even the series against the Angels (67-86).

Astros right-hander Doug Fister (12-12, 4.45 ERA) has suffered through a miserable final month, going 0-3 with a 12.42 ERA over four starts. Fister, 3-3 with a 2.72 ERA in his career against the Angels, had been the Astros' most consistent starter this season before cratering in September. With Fister lasting at least five innings only once in his last five appearances, an early hook is certainly in play.

“I've gone with that model the whole (month of) September,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of having starters on a short leash. “I want to get these guys in a position to hand the ball to the bullpen in a good spot. Doug's a pro. He's been really good for us at times this year. He's had a couple times where he hasn't been as good. I know recently his performance hasn't been up to his standards.

“It's all hands on deck the entire month of September. Doesn't mean he (Fister) can't last five, six or seven innings.”

Angels right-hander Alex Meyer (1-3, 5.63 ERA) will make his sixth appearance and fifth start of the season. Acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 1 along with right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who won the series opener with seven shutout innings of work, Meyer earned his first career win on Sunday against the Blue Jays after tossing five scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory.

Meyer fanned seven batters in his outing, setting a career high along with his innings pitched. After struggling in two appearances with the Twins to the tune of an 0-1 record and 12.27 ERA, including a May 3 start against the Astros where he surrendered three runs on three hits and three walks over 2 2/3 innings, Meyer is showing signs of settling in with the Angels, his third professional organization.

“Hopefully more of the same of what he's thrown the last couple outings,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Meyer, who was selected by the Washington Nationals in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2011 draft. “We've seen a big arm, we've seen a guy that spins the ball well. I think he's finding a consistent arm slot and release point and through all this process of where Alex is right now, he's in the process of finding himself again.

“Hopefully we'll continue to see that continued growth moving forward of what he's been doing since he's been here.”