The Astros, though, are just above the last-place Angels, who are off to their worst start in 52 years entering Friday night's series opener in Anaheim.
With a combined 213 losses in the past two seasons, the Astros were hardly expected to be competitive when they moved to the formidable AL West, and their $27 million payroll didn't give them much to work with.
As likely predicted, Houston (3-6) has started slowly but did win its final two games in Seattle earlier this week. After getting outscored 37-9 during a six-game slide, the Astros earned that pair of victories by a combined 24-12 margin and totaled 38 hits.
Chris Carter led the way with seven hits, three homers, and five RBIs in those games, and Marwin Gonzalez had five hits, including a homer in each victory, while raising his team-best average to .444.
"Even when a maybe a lot of people around the ballclub were panicking, I never saw any panic from any of those guys. We all understand the game of baseball," manager Bo Porter told the team's website. "We know it can be very streaky from an offensive standpoint. Hitting is contagious, just like the same way a few guys get into a slump it can be contagious."
The Astros will try to keep streaking for a little longer against the Angels (2-7), who are experiencing their worst start since going 1-8 in their inaugural 1961 season. In contrast to the thrifty Astros, Los Angeles boasts a $142 million payroll and made another splash in free agency in the offseason by signing former Texas slugger Josh Hamilton .
Los Angeles also struggled out of the gate after signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million deal before last season, dropping 14 of 20 en route to a third-place finish in the West.
After batting .190 with one homer in his first 30 games last season, Pujols is hitting .300 with two home runs so far this season but went 0 for 4 in Thursday's 8-1 loss to Oakland. Hamilton had two of his team's season-low five hits to raise his average to .200.
The Angels, who had 49 hits in their previous four games, have experienced more trouble lately keeping opponents off the scoreboard. Their ERA has quickly risen from 3.11 to 5.42 during their four consecutive defeats.
"The teams we've faced, they're really good offensive clubs. But I think everybody believes in the team we have," starting pitcher Jason Vargas said.
Tommy Hanson , one of three new starting pitchers, will try to help his team begin to snap out of its funk by building on a winning debut. The right-hander gave up three runs over six innings in Saturday's 8-4 victory in Texas.
The former Atlanta right-hander has plenty of experience against the Astros and most of it good. Hanson (1-0, 4.50 ERA) is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in six career matchups.
Houston will send out Bud Norris (1-1, 3.18) to face the Angels for the first time. After winning his season debut against Texas, the right-hander gave up one run over his first five innings against Oakland on Saturday before allowing four - three of which were unearned - in a 6-3 defeat.
Pujols is one of two Angels hitters to have faced Norris, going 5 for 26 (.192) with two doubles. Chris Iannetta is 1 for 3 against him.
|April 05, 2013||Travis Blackley||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|April 04, 2013||Josh Fields||15-Day DL||Right forearm strain|
|March 31, 2013||Alex White||60-Day DL||Right elbow strain|
|March 27, 2013||Fernando Martinez||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|April 11, 2013||Alberto Callaspo||Day-to-Day||Calf|
|April 09, 2013||Erick Aybar||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left heel|
|April 08, 2013||Jered Weaver||15-Day DL||Broken left elbow|
|April 07, 2013||Jered Weaver||Day-to-Day||Strained left elbow|
|March 22, 2013||Andrew Taylor||60-Day DL||Left labrum tear|
|March 22, 2013||Ryan Madson||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Bud Norris has done a good job so far as the No. 1 starter for the Houston Astros .
Norris pitched three-hit ball over seven innings, Rick Ankiel drove in three runs and Justin Maxwell hit his first home run of the season, leading the Astros to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday in their first meeting as AL West rivals.
"I've had those kind of starts before in my career and I know I've got more left in me," Norris said. "It's not like anything changes. You try to do it every time and it's not necessarily going to go down that way."
Norris (2-1) struck out five and walked two in his 100th big league start, helping the Astros win their third in a row after six straight losses.
Rookie manager Bo Porter used three relievers in the ninth to clinch the combined four-hitter.
"This guy's a No. 1 starter and he's pitched a lot of big games," Porter said. "I think his best years are definitely ahead of him. He's growing up right in front of our eyes, and it's a pleasure to see."
Singles by Brendan Harris , Mark Trumbo and Hank Conger were their only hits against Norris.
The Angels, coming off a three-game sweep by Oakland, have lost five straight and are off to a 2-8 start - matching the worst in franchise history.
The inaugural 1961 club also lost eight of its first 10.
Making matters worse was the way Friday's game ended, with Josh Hamilton forgetting the number of outs and getting doubled up at first base on Mark Trumbo 's foul pop to Jason Castro .
"That's obviously a bad play. That's a mental mistake," manager Mike Scioscia said. "As perfect as players try to play, and as hard as they try to play, unfortunately mental mistakes are occasionally going to creep into the scenario.
"We've seen it from other teams, and unfortunately it got us tonight. And Josh knows it. He's accountable. He knows he messed up. So we're going to move on. It's a mental mistake. It happens. It's obviously ugly when it happens, and we're going to move on. That's it."
Tommy Hanson (1-1) threw 108 pitches through five innings, giving up five runs, eight hits and two walks.
The Angels, who have a $148.5 million payroll, have had their rotation struggle on this homestand.
Hanson, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas have allowed a combined 20 earned runs, 34 hits, four homers and 10 walks in 21 2-3 innings.
Ace right-hander Jered Weaver is on the disabled list for at least a month because of a broken bone in his left arm.
Garrett Richards will come out of the bullpen to make his first start of the season on Saturday.
Hanson gave up hits to his first four batters and threw 27 pitches before retiring anyone.
Jose Altuve singled and scored on a drive to right-center by Justin Maxwell , who was thrown out trying for a triple. TV replays showed that umpire Laz Diaz got the call wrong, as Luis Jimenez took the relay throw from second baseman Howie Kendrick and applied the tag after Maxwell's foot hit the bag.
Castro and Chris Carter followed with singles, and both runners advanced when Hanson attempted to pick off Castro and shortstop Brendan Harris mishandled the throw for an error. A full-count walk to Carlos Pena loaded the bases for J.D. Martinez, who struck out. But Ankiel grounded a two-run single just past shortstop on Hanson's 35th pitch, giving Houston a 3-0 lead.
Maxwell, who led the Astros last season with 18 homers, made it 4-0 in the second inning with a drive to left-center on a 2-1 pitch. It was the 18th home run given up in 90 1-3 innings this season by a Angels pitching staff that has a 5.38 ERA.
Ankiel, playing for his fifth big league club after signing a minor league contract with the Astros and getting an invite to spring training, completed the scoring with an RBI double in the third.
NOTES: The Angels paid tribute to their late public address announcer, David Courtney, with a pregame moment of silence. Courtney died Nov. 29. His widow, Janet, threw a ceremonial first pitch - wearing a No. 19 Angels jersey that signified the years her husband spent behind the microphone at the "Big A." ... The Astros had a 3-3 interleague record against the Angels and were 1-2 in their only series at Anaheim in June 2007. ... Jimenez, the Angels' top rookie in spring training, made his major league debut after getting called up from Triple-A Salt Lake because of injuries to 3B Alberto Callaspo and SS Erick Aybar . OF J.B. Shuck was optioned to Salt Lake. ... Astros 1B Brett Wallace , 0 for 9 with five strikeouts against Hanson, sat out for the second straight game. He is 1 for 21 this season with 17 strikeouts.