Angels-Astros Preview

Josh Hamilton’s fast start has been aided by a visit to one of his favorite venues.

The next order of business for the Los Angeles Angels is getting one of their other marquee sluggers to follow his lead.

Hamilton looks to continue his torrid hitting at Minute Maid Park and help the Angels take three of four from the Houston Astros on Monday.

Eager to erase the memory of a very disappointing first season with the Angels, Hamilton has started quickly in the first week of 2014. He picked up two more hits in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Astros and is 11 for 22 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs in six games.

"It’s how you want to feel – relaxed, pitch-to-pitch," Hamilton told the team’s official website. "You feel like your swing. You know it, and if something’s not right, pitch-to-pitch, you change it. It would be really nice if it stayed that way."

Those numbers are in stark contrast to Hamilton’s first six games last season, when he had one hit with 10 strikeouts in his first 21 at-bats.

He’s always hit well in Houston with a career .356 average, and is batting .472 (17 for 36) with four home runs and nine RBIs in his last 10 games there.

Los Angeles (2-4) has scored 20 runs in the first three games of this series even with little production from Albert Pujols, who is 5 for 25 with one RBI and no walks this season.

"It’s a little frustrating at times because I’m getting some pitches I know I can do damage with," Pujols said.

Hamilton and Mike Trout (.304) have combined for four of the team’s six homers and 10 of the Angels’ 27 RBIs. They are the only two regulars batting above .300.

Houston (3-3) got a second straight outstanding start from Scott Feldman and backed him with five homers Sunday to snap a three-game skid. Jason Castro and Jonathan Villar hit two-run shots while Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman and Alex Presley added solo blasts as the Astros matched their run total from the previous four games combined.

”We had some good swings on some pitches and the ball went out of the park,” Presley said. ”We had seven hits and five were home runs. That’s a pretty good percentage.”

That big offensive display came without center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was out of the lineup for a third straight game due to a stomach virus. Fowler was released from the hospital Saturday and manager Bo Porter said he was at home resting.

The Angels send C.J. Wilson to the mound hoping the left-hander can help them avoid starting 2-5 for the second consecutive season. Wilson, though, wasn’t sharp Tuesday against Seattle, allowing six runs and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-3 loss. He needed 95 pitches to get through the first five innings and threw 114 overall.

Wilson was very good last season against the Astros, going 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA in four starts.

He’ll be opposed by Jared Cosart, who comes off an impressive season debut. He tossed five scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over the Yankees on Wednesday, striking out three while not issuing a walk for the first time in 11 major league starts.

Cosart has surrendered two runs or fewer eight times in those 11 starts and boasts a 1.80 ERA in 65 career innings.