Angels-Astros Preview

With Mike Trout out of the lineup, the Los Angeles Angels haven’t had enough to beat the Houston Astros in a pivotal AL West series.

Trout’s status is unclear for Thursday night’s finale against the Astros, who are hoping for another stellar outing from Houston native Scott Kazmir in his home debut.

A sore left wrist has sidelined Trout the first two games in Houston, and the Angels (55-45) went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position Wednesday when they plated just one run in the first eight innings of a 6-3 loss Wednesday.

"We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution to make sure he’s where he needs to be … it’s definitely the type of injury where you would rather give it a couple of more days on this end and not risk a couple of weeks on the back end," manager Mike Scioscia said of his star center fielder, who is batting .315 with an MLB-best 31 homers and 64 RBIs.

Albert Pujols provided a bright spot by reaching 30 homers for the first time since 2012, his first season with the Angels, but the Astros (57-45) moved one game ahead in the division by scoring all of their runs in their final four innings.

They’ll try to pad that lead with help from the recently acquired Kazmir (6-5, 2.24 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in four starts this month. He went seven innings in a 4-0 win in Kansas City on Friday, one day after he was acquired from Oakland.

"Obviously, the reason we went out and got him is exactly what he did tonight, to give us solid innings," catcher Jason Castro said. "We can’t expect him to throw a shutout every time, but that would be nice. That’s exactly what we were hoping to get out of him, to have another arm like that in our rotation is going to be huge."

Kazmir yielded one run in 7 1-3 innings in a 3-2 win over Los Angeles on June 21. He went 11-18 with a 5.45 ERA in 37 starts for the Angels – including two in the postseason – from August 2009 until being released in June 2011.

Matt Shoemaker (5-7, 4.55) will try to help his team, losers in five of six, avoid its first sweep of three games or longer in Houston while bolstering his hopes of staying in the rotation.

Shoemaker will likely get bumped to the bullpen when Jered Weaver returns from a hip injury, but he made a good impression by scattering two hits in six innings and fanning a season high-tying 10 in a 7-0 win over Minnesota on July 21.

Shoemaker gave up six runs in three innings – matching the shortest start of his career – in his only matchup with Houston this season, a 6-5 loss May 9. Jose Altuve, 4 for 7 lifetime against Shoemaker, hit the first of three Astros home runs off the right-hander and is batting .406 (28 for 69) in his last 17 games against the Angels.

Jed Lowrie would face Shoemaker for the first time if he makes his return from right thumb surgery as expected Thursday. Lowrie was batting .300 with four homers in 18 games when he was injured April.

Erick Aybar is 7 for 11 with two doubles lifetime versus Kazmir, but Pujols is 1 for 9.