The lowly Houston Astros are playing their best baseball of the season but will face an even hotter club when they begin one of their longest road trips of the year.
The Los Angeles Angels will also send an unbeaten Garrett Richards to the mound in Monday night’s series opener.
Houston (16-28) earned its fifth win in seven games Sunday by outslugging the Chicago White Sox 8-2. Matt Dominguez hit a pair of home runs, and the Astros recorded double-digit hits for the seventh time in eight games.
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Houston is batting .298 and averaging 4.8 runs in the last eight after hitting .218 and averaging 3.4 runs in its first 36 games.
Jose Altuve is batting a team-best .421 (16 for 38) in the past eight games and has hit safely in the last 10. Dexter Fowler has hit .385 (10 for 26) while drawing 13 walks, with at least one in eight straight contests for Houston’s longest streak since Morgan Ensberg’s nine-gamer in August 2006.
"It’s coming together," manager Bo Porter told the team’s website. "I like the balance and what we have going right now."
With a 2.18 ERA in his last five games, Richards (4-0, 2.42 ERA) might have enough to stifle the Astros and deny them their first three-game win streak this season.
The right-hander gave up five hits, walked none and struck out eight over seven innings in Wednesday’s 3-0 win in Philadelphia. Richards is one of three unbeaten pitchers who have made at least six starts, joining the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Mets’ Jenrry Mejia.
"I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. I’ve continued to learn. I’m figuring some things out as I go," Richards told the Angels’ website.
Richards yielded one run and three hits in five innings in an 11-1 rout of the Astros in his season debut April 4. He struck out seven but walked a season-high five.
Los Angeles took three of four in Houston from April 4-7 and has claimed nine of the last 13 matchups. The Angles, though, have one win in their last seven home games against the Astros
Los Angeles (24-19) defeated Tampa Bay 6-2 on Sunday for its eighth win in 10 games. Albert Pujols hit a pair of homers off David Price, and is batting .342 with three home runs and six RBIs in 10 home games this month.
Erick Aybar is 5 for 27 (.185) in his last seven games but is 5 for 12 (.417) with two doubles against scheduled starter Dallas Keuchel (4-2, 3.06).
Keuchel has given up a combined two runs, 13 hits and no walks over 16 2-3 innings in winning his past two outings. He tossed his first career shutout – a seven-hitter – and struck out seven for the second straight game in an 8-0 victory over Texas on Tuesday.
The left-hander is 1-1 with an 8.59 ERA in his last three starts against the Angels. He gave up four runs, eight hits and two walks in five innings in a 5-1 loss April 5.
L.J. Hoes is hitting .458 (11 for 24) in seven career games against the Angels and is 1 for 3 all-time against Richards. Chris Carter is 7 for 19 in his last five games and 5 for 10 with one home run versus Richards.