Angels-Astros Preview


After underachieving last year, this season could not have started worse for the Los Angeles Angels.

They'll look to avoid going 0-4 for the first time in 22 years when they visit the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Expecting to rebound from last season's 78-84 disappointment, Los Angeles was outscored 26-8 while being swept by Seattle at home this week. The Angels hit .177 and went 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position while starters Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson allowed a combined 10 runs in 12 innings and the bullpen posted a 10.80 ERA and yielded five homers.

"That's obviously not the way we wanted to come out and open this thing up," said third baseman David Freese, who kicked off his Angels tenure by going 1 for 10.

"They all count, but it's a long season and we'll bounce back. There's a lot of guys in this clubhouse that understand what a baseball season consists of, and sometimes this happens."

It hasn't been this bad in Anaheim since 1992, when the Angels started 0-4 and finished 72-90.

Albert Pujols is 2 for 12 after hitting a career-low .258 during a 2013 season that ended after 99 games because of plantar fasciitis.

"We've been around long enough to know what it takes," Freese told the Angels' official website. "We just have to bring energy into Houston and just continue what we're doing and play hard. This is going to be a good team."

Los Angeles has no reason to underestimate the Astros (2-1), who went a franchise-worst 51-111 last year but took two of three from the New York Yankees this week. The Angels were 3-7 at home against the Astros last season but 6-3 at Houston, where they've won two straight and six of seven.

Dexter Fowler had two hits with an RBI as the Astros attempt at an opening-series sweep of the Yankees fell short with a 4-2 loss Thursday. Fowler is 6 for 12 with four extra-base hits and became the second player in franchise history to begin his Houston career with three straight multi-hit games.

Houston will hand the ball to Lucas Harrell, who went 5-12 with a 5.98 ERA in 22 starts last season, and made only three after he was sent to the bullpen in early July. It was a major step back for the right-hander, who went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts in 2012.

"I think a lot of times some of your greatest successes happen after failure," manager Bo Porter told the Astros' official website. "We believe he can get back to that guy that was one of our best pitchers in 2012, and I think he's motivated to do that."

Though Harrell didn't factor in the decision in any of his three starts versus Los Angeles last season, he posted a 1.53 ERA in those games.

The Angels counter with Garrett Richards, who ended last season by going 5-4 with a 3.72 in 13 starts once moving into the rotation in late July.

"When I got drafted, (the starting rotation) was where I wanted to be, this is what I've been working towards," said Richards, who went 7-8 with a 4.16 ERA in 47 games and 17 starts in 2013. "I'm just ready to work. I gained a lot of confidence last year and I learned a lot of things."

The right-hander had a 6.57 ERA without recording a decision in his two starts versus Houston in 2013.