Astros’ Verlander looks to remain dominant against Angels

Justin Verlander has dominated the Los Angeles Angels ever since he was traded to the Houston Astros toward the end of last season, and he has been particularly strong against them at Angel Stadium.

The 35-year-old right-hander will try to continue that trend when he takes the mound Saturday night in the second game of the three-game series in Anaheim.

Verlander has won all five starts against the Angels since he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 1 of last season, allowing two earned runs in 36 innings.

He has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings over his past three starts at Angel Stadium.

“I like the aesthetic of pitching here,” Verlander said after shutting out the Angels on five hits over six innings in a 7-0 win on July 21.

The Astros (78-50) enter Saturday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Oakland A’s for first place in the American League West.

Houston won the series opener 9-3 on Friday night to maintain that lead over Oakland, which also won on Friday. The A’s briefly tied the Astros for the AL West lead earlier this month, but Houston has won three in a row and four of five to regain its advantage.

The Mariners are 5 1/2 games back of the Astros and chasing the A’s for the final wild-card spot from the AL.

The Angels (63-66) welcomed back center fielder Mike Trout on Friday night after the two-time AL MVP missed the 20 games with a sore right wrist and then the sudden death of his brother-in-law on Aug. 15. He went 2-for-3 with a triple Friday.

Verlander (12-8, 2.65 ERA) hasn’t been as sharp in his four starts in August, all against teams that are also battling for a playoff spot.

He allowed four runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings on Sunday against the A’s and earned his 200th career victory in the 9-4 win. He had lost his previous two starts against the Colorado Rockies and Mariners.

“When you reach a milestone, you look back, understand and relish what you’ve done,” Verlander told reporters after his latest win. “I look around from when I started and realized it’s a long journey. From age 21 to now, mentally, it’s been a process.”

Los Angeles rookie right-hander Jaime Barria is scheduled to oppose Verlander on Saturday.

Barria made the fifth start of his career against the Astros on May 15 and performed well. He limited them to one run and four hits over seven innings, but the bullpen blew a 3-1 lead in the 5-3 loss in Anaheim.

Barria (8-7, 3.41 ERA) was 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA after beating the Texas Rangers on June 1, but then went nearly two months without a victory.

He has bounced back nicely in August, owning a 2-0 record in four starts with a 2.18 ERA.

Barria faced the Rangers again on Sunday and limited them to one run and seven hits in five innings, but again did not get the victory after the bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh inning of the 4-2 loss.

“I always try to locate my pitches and do my job every game,” Barria told in Spanish following his most recent outing.