Angels-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Angels couldn't end their road woes in their first game at Minute Maid Park in nine seasons.

There's no guarantee the Angels' fortunes will change with Joe Blanton on the hill.

The winless right-hander will try to help the Angels avoid a fourth straight defeat Wednesday night when the Houston Astros try to build off their first victory in seven tries.

Losers of nine of 12 heading into this series - the first between these new AL West foes in Houston since June 2004 - the Angels (11-21) fell 7-6 in Tuesday's opener as Houston (9-24) ended its lengthy skid while evening the season series at two games apiece.

The Angels, who have matched their worst start in franchise history, are now tied with the Astros with a major league-worst 4-12 road record.

"Tonight, it just came down to a couple of incidents for the most part,'' said Hank Conger, who became the first Angels catcher with three errors in a game.

It's uncertain if manager Mike Scioscia will give Conger another start, or if Chris Iannetta will be behind the plate with Blanton (0-5, 5.97 ERA) trying to build on two quality starts.

The veteran right-hander surrendered six runs in 14 innings in those outings, but the Angels plated three total runs in those contests to keep Blanton winless through six starts for the second time in his 10-year career. He was 0-5 in his first 10 starts with Oakland eight years ago.

"Sometimes that happens," said Blanton, who yielded three runs in a season-high eight innings of Thursday's 5-1 loss to Baltimore. "It went a couple of games longer than I hoped it would."

The Angels can only hope Blanton improves his performance on the road, where he's 0-3 while opponents are batting .352.

Blanton is 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts in Houston, the last coming four years ago while with Philadelphia.

The Astros, who last strung together two straight wins on April 23 and 24, will counter with Bud Norris (3-3, 3.89), who has surrendered two or fewer runs in each of his four Minute Maid Park starts. The right-hander struck out a season-high seven in seven innings of Friday's 4-3 home loss to Detroit.

"Bud Norris did what a No. 1 starter does," manager Bo Porter told the Astros' official website. "When his team is light in the bullpen after a 14-inning game (a 7-3 loss on Thursday), he goes seven innings and held one of the best offensive teams in our league to two runs."

Norris limited the Angels to three singles in seven innings of a 5-0 win in Anaheim on April 12 that capped Houston's season-high three-game win streak.

Mark Trumbo has just one hit in three at-bats off the right-hander, but the Angels slugger has homered in six of the last eight games and in a career-best four straight outside Anaheim.

Astros first baseman-DH Chris Carter, who hit a three-run shot on Tuesday - his team-leading seventh - has gone deep four times in his last eight games versus Los Angeles. He's never faced Blanton.

Neither has rookie center fielder Robbie Grossman, who carries a team-best eight-game hitting streak into Wednesday's contest.

Los Angeles' Erick Aybar, who has hit safely in 10 straight, will get his first look at Norris after missing last month's series with a bruised left heel.

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