Joe Blanton has already lost once this season to the Astros, who bring a season-high five-game win streak into Monday night's series finale.
Houston (20-37) is the worst team in the league, and the addition of the club with the lowest payroll in baseball to the AL would seemingly serve to benefit a Los Angeles team expected to contend in the West.
Instead the Angels (25-32) are now 3-6 against their newest division rivals after hitting .218 and scoring seven runs in losing the first three games of this series."I don't think they're playing over their heads against us," said the Angels' C.J. Wilson, who suffered Sunday's 5-4 loss. "They're a major league team,"
Houston, meanwhile, is seeking its first six-game run since winning seven straight July 27-Aug. 3, 2010."If we can compete with the Angels, then we can compete with anybody," Astros reliever Hector Ambriz said. "We've attacked their whole lineup with fastballs, curveballs and off-speed pitches and haven't fallen behind in the count. You've got to respect what they can do, but we've got to respect our stuff, too."
Los Angeles will give the ball to Blanton (1-8, 5.94 ERA), who is tied with Houston's Philip Humber for the league's most defeats. Humber was sent to the minors May 14.
Blanton has turned in two straight decent efforts, yielding two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-4 victory May 23 at Kansas City and allowing three runs over seven in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Dodgers.
Another one of his better outings came May 8 against the Astros, as the right-hander gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 3-1 defeat.
Carlos Pena is 5 for 13 against Blanton. The Houston slugger has hit safely in five straight games, going 6 for 12 in this series with a solo homer Sunday.
J.D. Martinez is also red hot with 11 hits in his last 26 at-bats. Chris Carter is 10 for 29 in the season series with four homers and 10 of his 31 RBIs.
Some of the high-priced Angels' big names have come up small, in contrast, this weekend. Josh Hamilton is 2 for 12 in this series and Albert Pujols 2 for 7 after not starting Friday due to foot and knee problems.
Hamilton is 5 for 17 against Astros starter Erik Bedard (0-2, 5.32) while Pujols has never faced the left-hander.
Bedard is 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA over his last 11 starts dating to 2012. However, he has posted a 3.27 ERA and no decisions over his last four outings since returning to the rotation after a brief stint in the bullpen.
His 7.08 ERA at Angel Stadium is his worst mark at any park where he has started more than once.
Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez could return Monday after missing the last four games with a right hamstring strain.
|May 26, 2013||Edgar Gonzalez||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|May 21, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|May 13, 2013||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back spasms|
|April 24, 2013||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|April 20, 2013||J.D. Martinez||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|April 20, 2013||J.D. Martinez||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|June 02, 2013||Garrett Richards||Day-to-Day||Left game - Ankle injury|
|May 28, 2013||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Back spasms|
|May 27, 2013||Sean Burnett||15-Day DL||Left elbow inflammation|
|May 26, 2013||Sean Burnett||Day-to-Day||Left game - Forearm tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Erick Aybar||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee soreness|
|April 30, 2013||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Just when the Houston Astros figured everybody in baseball had pretty much forgotten about them, they've started to pull off some attention-grabbing feats.
After a perfect road trip, the low-budget club with the AL's worst record is heading home with the majors' longest active winning streak.
Chris Carter homered, Erik Bedard pitched seven strong innings for his first victory of the season, and the last-place Astros completed a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 2-1 victory Monday night.
Brandon Barnes drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning as the Astros finished their unblemished six-game trip with their seventh win over the big-money Angels in 10 meetings this season. The Astros completed their longest perfect road trip since 1999 despite managing only three hits and four baserunners - and one was picked off.
"Everybody takes pride in winning and playing as a team, and guys are playing great right now," said Carter, who hit his fifth homer against the Angels already this season. "It's just about getting big hits in big situations."
Houston hadn't won six consecutive games since August 2010, and hadn't won six straight on the road since July 2005. The Astros barely hung on for the latest win in their improbable string, with Jose Veras striking out Hank Conger with two runners on in the ninth for his 11th save.
"I feel like we're playing really good baseball," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "We had been playing good baseball, but now we're starting to win those crucial break points. ... I look at the talent in that room. I know the potential we have. You're starting to see we're coming together. I said it last month: We're going to hit our stride, and we're going to start winning some of those games we were losing."
The Astros had just enough to hold off Los Angeles, which lost a game despite allowing three hits or fewer for just the fifth time in the last decade.
Joe Blanton picked up his AL-worst ninth loss for the Angels despite matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and allowing just three hits in eight outstanding innings. The Angels held a closed-door meeting for 25 minutes after their latest discouraging loss in a season full of them.
"Anything can happen in this game, so you can't take the other team for granted," said Albert Pujols , who went 0 for 4. "They have a lot of players who want to prove that they belong up here. We had our pitching matchups set up, and obviously things didn't go our way."
Barnes dived to catch Pujols' sinking drive to center with Mike Trout on base to end the eighth.
Veras then held on for his third save in the four-game series, giving up Alberto Callaspo 's two-out double and walking pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton striking out pinch-hitter Conger looking.
Bedard (1-2) hadn't won in his last 11 starts dating to last season, but the veteran lefty gave up just five hits and a walk despite entering the night with a career 7.08 ERA at Angel Stadium.
Trout drove in the only run for the foundering Angels, who have lost six of eight to erase all momentum from their eight-game winning streak last month. Los Angeles slid back to eight games below .500 with four consecutive losses to the Astros, dropping its record against the rest of the AL West to 9-19.
Carter's fifth-inning homer was the Astros' first hit off Blanton (1-9), who kept mowing down the Astros in his first start with 10 strikeouts in nearly four years. Blanton still matched Philadelphia's Cole Hamels for the major league lead in losses.
"They executed when they needed to, and we didn't," Blanton said. "They pitched well. Anytime somebody beats you four in a row, you've got to give them credit. It's not all a matter of you playing bad."
Hamilton was held out of the Angels' starting lineup to give some rest to the slumping $125 million outfielder. Hamilton missed two games last week with back spasms, but the former AL MVP was 2 for 15 on the homestand, and is batting .169 against left-handers this season.
Blanton struck out six of the Astros' first nine batters. Houston's only baserunner in the first 4 2-3 innings reached on Callaspo's throwing error in the third, but Chris Iannetta picked Matt Dominguez off second base moments later.
The Angels took the lead in the third when J.B. Shuck doubled down the right-field line, advanced on Erick Aybar 's single and scored on Trout's flyout.
Blanton was firmly in control until Carter's homer, striking out the first two batters he faced in the fifth to surpass his season high. But Carter lined a pitch into the bullpens beyond the left-field fence for his 12th homer of the season.
Houston went ahead in the sixth when Dominguez doubled, advanced on a bunt and scored on Barnes' fly.
NOTES: Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez returned after missing four games with a strained hamstring. ... Blanton matched his career-best 11 strikeouts on May 26, 2009, while pitching for Philadelphia against the Marlins. ... OF Peter Bourjos had a triple in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment with Single-A Inland Empire. Out since April 29 with an injured hamstring, the center fielder is expected to rejoin the Angels this week, bumping Trout back to left field.