HOUSTON — Despite their injury-ravaged pitching staff suffering another blow this week, the Los Angeles Angels continue to build on the momentum they established prior to the All-Star Game break when they won five times during a 10-game swing through Tampa, Boston and Baltimore.
Having lost right-hander Garrett Richards and left-hander Andrew Heaney to torn ulnar collateral ligaments earlier this season, the Angels discovered that right-hander Nick Tropeano suffered the same injury on July 18 and will likely require season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Yet despite these tribulations, the Angels (43-52) have won 10 of 12 games and completed a 6-0 homestand with a 7-4 win over the Rangers on Wednesday night. After surrendering just one run in a three-game sweep of the White Sox, the Angles used their offense to bludgeon Texas, earning a second consecutive sweep despite allowing 15 runs.
“I think we're getting contributions from a lot of guys,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his offense. “Our lineup is getting deeper. I think we're running the bases better. Our situational hitting has been good. Our on-base percentage over the last month has been terrific.
“So we're getting opportunities, we're feeding the guys in the middle (of the lineup). Albert (Pujols) is swinging the bat better (and) getting his RBI shots. Mike (Trout) is doing what he does. I think on the offensive side we're doing the things we anticipated doing.”
The Angels will open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Friday night against the Astros, against whom they have dropped eight consecutive games. The good news is that the reigning American League Player of the Week, right-hander Matt Shoemaker, will be on the bump.
Shoemaker (5-9, 4.08 ERA) is coming off his first career shutout, a brilliant 1-0 win over the White Sox in which he registered a career-high 13 strikeouts against six hits and zero walks. Shoemaker has pitched effectively against the Astros this season, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts, recording 24 strikeouts against 20 hits in 21 1/3 innings.
The Astros (51-44) will counter with right-hander Lance McCullers (4-4, 3.61 ERA). McCullers has faced the Angels once this season, allowing one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 3-2 victory on June 22. McCullers is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in five career starts against the Angels.
The Astros capped a 3-3 road trip with a 7-0 win over the Athletics on Wednesday. Shortstop Carlos Correa finished with three walks and three RBIs in the victory, continuing his resurgent productivity since claiming the cleanup spot in the batting order.
Over the 29 games since he began batting fourth, Correa owns a slash line of .296/.400/.574 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. Correa had more than twice as many strikeouts (68) as walks (31) before the move but has almost evened his ratio since with 21 strikeouts against 18 walks.
Hitting behind All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who is batting .500/.537/.750 against the Angels in 2016, has benefitted Correa.
“He was very disciplined in some RBI opportunities, which is good to see,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Correa to MLB.com. “Obviously, behind Altuve, we want him to be really, really productive because there's a lot times guys aren't going to pitch to him.”