Astros-Angels Preview

AP - Sports

In order to avoid the embarrassment of a four-game home sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Angels are turning to a pitcher tied for the most losses in the AL.

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.

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