Astros-Angels Preview


So far, the dollars aren't adding up to wins for the Los Angeles Angels, and the rotation is a major problem.

The thrifty Houston Astros would like to continue taking advantage of that.

Garrett Richards is expected to get the ball in place of injured ace Jered Weaver as the Angels try avoid the worst start in franchise history Saturday night against the suddenly hot-hitting Astros.

Los Angeles (2-8) is expected to be a pennant contender with one of the highest payrolls in baseball at $148.5 million. Instead, the club is on the verge of its worst 11-game start to a season after losing the opener of this three-game set 5-0 on Friday.

The rotation is a key culprit.

Angels starters have a 6.02 ERA to rank among the worst in the majors. They've been particularly poor during a five-game losing streak, posting an 8.44 ERA while allowing opponents to hit .350 with six homers.

Los Angeles hasn't dropped six straight since June 4-10, 2011.

The current skid started with an even greater blow Sunday, when Weaver suffered a broken bone in his left, non-throwing arm while dodging a line drive back to the mound in a 7-3 loss at Texas.

With Weaver out for at least a month, Richards (0-0, 2.08 ERA) is slated to take his spot in the rotation after making four appearances in relief this season.

The right-hander appeared in 30 games last year and started nine, going 3-2 with a 4.42 ERA.

"Long term, I think that they want me to be a starter," the 24-year-old Richards told the team's official website. "This is unfortunate for Jered and what happened, but they're going to ask me to step in, so I'm going to step in and do my job.

"This isn't going to be a big change. Pitching is pitching."

Richards will have to contend with the surging Astros (4-6), owners of baseball's lowest payroll at $27 million. That's still over 3 million short of the combined salaries of the four other Angels starters - Tommy Hanson, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas.

Houston has outscored opponents 29-12 while hitting .393 with nine homers during a three-game winning streak. The Astros haven't won four in a row since May 21-25.

Justin Maxwell and Jose Altuve have keyed the Houston offense getting on track after it was held to nine runs and a .188 average during a six-game losing streak.

Maxwell, who hit .229 last year, has a .359 average and is coming off his fourth multihit effort in six games. He hit his first homer of the season and doubled Friday while driving in two runs.

Altuve is batting .364 and has gone 8 for 16 during the three-game win streak, including three hits Friday.

Lucas Harrell (0-2, 7.84 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound after control issues plagued him in Sunday's 9-3 loss to Oakland. The right-hander was tagged for eight runs and seven hits, including a career-high three homers, while walking five and tossing 112 pitches in 4 1-3 innings.

That was in stark contrast to his season debut April 2, when he yielded one run in six innings of a 7-0 loss to Texas.

Josh Hamilton, the Angels' big free-agent acquisition this winter, is still seeking his first homer and owns a .179 average with four RBIs. He went 0 for 4 on Friday and was doubled-up at first to end the game after forgetting the number of outs on Mark Trumbo's foul pop to catcher Jason Castro.

"He knows he messed up. So we're going to move on," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's a mental mistake. It happens."