Astros LHP Keuchel looks to continue success against Angels

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The Los Angeles Angels might be out of the running for a playoff spot, but they can certainly factor in the American League West race.

The Angels open a three-game series against the AL West-leading Houston Astros on Friday night at Angel Stadium, the first of 10 games against the reigning World Series champions over the next month.

The Astros (77-50) entered Thursday with a one-game lead over the Oakland A's and a 5 1/2-game edge on the Seattle Mariners.

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The Angels (63-65) have six games remaining against Oakland and four against Seattle, which is chasing the A's for the final AL wild-card spot.

Houston will send left-hander Dallas Keuchel to the mound in the series opener. Keuchel is 11-2 in his career against the Angels with a 3.41 ERA. He's 25-23 against the rest of the AL West.

He won his only start against the Angels this season, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning on July 20 in Anaheim before allowing one unearned run and two hits over 7 2/3 innings of the 3-1 win.

He has won his past five decisions against Los Angeles overall with his last loss coming on Sept. 11, 2015 at Angel Stadium.

Keuchel (9-10, 3.59 ERA) hasn't been able to get his record over .500 this season, however.

He had three chances after moving to 9-9 in an 8-3 win against the Mariners on Aug. 1, but had no decisions in his next two starts and then took the loss in a 7-1 defeat against the A's on Saturday.

Keuchel gave up five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Six of those hits were doubles.

"They got in that momentum with really good at-bats and double after double after double," Astros manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com afterward. "He didn't need to make perfect pitches, but he didn't get the ball on the ground today the way he normally does."

The series will mark the return of Houston catcher Martin Maldonado to Anaheim. He was acquired from the Angels in a trade on July 26.

Maldonado has three home runs in 16 games with the Astros after hitting five in 78 games with the Angels.

Reports have also surfaced that Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout could return Friday. Trout was on the 10-day disabled list with a sore right wrist when his brother-in-law, Aaron Cox, died on Aug. 15.

Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney is also looking to get over .500 for the first time this season. He's had six chances, but is 0-3 with three no-decisions in those games.

Most recently he missed an opportunity against the Texas Rangers, allowing six runs and 10 hits on Saturday and leaving after 5 2/3 innings with the score tied 6-6. The Angels went on to win 11-7.

Heaney (7-7, 4.11 ERA) beat the Astros in his two starts this season, both times to get his record back to .500. Those are his only two decisions in four career starts against the Astros.

Heaney will try to lift his teammates, who have dropped five of their past six games. In addition to being without Trout, left fielder Justin Upton has missed the past two games with a cut on his right index finger, forcing Angels manager Mike Scioscia to go with a younger, more inexperienced lineup.

"We have some guys who are figuring it out as they play every day," Scioscia told the Orange County Register following a 5-1 loss at the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday. "These guys need to play to figure stuff out."

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