|Astros look to keep rolling vs. Angels|
HOUSTON -- Last Sunday night, after Texas Rangers veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon carried a perfect game into the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros closed that three-game series having scored a total of nine runs and continued what was a sluggish stretch offensively.
The Astros (16-7) will return home for the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday riding a six-game winning streak and with their offense in a groove.
After dropping the opener of a seven-game road trip through Seattle and Chicago, a 2-1 loss that represented the third time in six games they scored one run, the Astros caught a rhythm. Houston has scored 47 runs during its win streak and is in first place in the American League West.
That the Astros righted themselves on the road is no surprise.
Last season their 53-28 road record was tied for the best in the majors along with the Indians, and Houston averaged more runs per game on the road (6.2) than it did at Minute Maid Park (4.9), where the Astros finished 48-33.
In the postseason, Houston clinched the AL Division Series and World Series on the road.
When the offense works in concert with the exceptional pitching, the results are favorable.
"We can play all facets of the game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We are a tough team to match up with.
"Being the aggressive team that puts up pretty good at-bats, some explosive innings, and great pitching."
The Houston rotation posted a 0.95 ERA during the road trip, surrendering five earned runs over 47 innings. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel suffered the lone loss on the trip, doing so while posting a complete game and allowing just two runs on six hits and one walk over eight innings.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (2-0, 0.96 ERA) will seek to maintain that momentum for the Astros.
Cole is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA over two career starts against the Angels. In his previous outing against Los Angeles, Cole allowed three runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss on June 5, 2016 at PNC Park while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 3.98 ERA) earns the starting assignment for the Angels (14-8), who have lost five of six including a 4-2 setback on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants.
Skaggs is 3-2 with a 3.26 ERA over seven career starts against the Astros.
He faced Houston twice last season but did not factor in the decision in either game, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts over five innings in a 7-6 win at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Aug. 26, and four runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts over five innings in a 7-5 road victory in his penultimate appearance of the season on Sept. 24.
The Angels are slumping like the Astros were a week ago, having been limited to two runs or less in five of six games, with their 4-3 win on Saturday serving as the exception.
Mike Trout homered for the third straight game, but the Angels were no-hit until the sixth inning in a 4-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants Sunday. Shohei Ohtani batted cleanup for the first time and was 1-for-4 in place of a resting Albert Pujols, who is eight hits shy of 3,000.
Pujols is expected to return to the starting lineup as the designated hitter. So is shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who exited Sunday's game after being hit in the right forearm.
"It's a little sore, but it's not that bad," Simmons told reporters. "I could throw, but not easily. I'm waiting for the welling to go down, but I think I should be ready to go if they let me."
The Angels raced to a 13-3 start and led Houston by 2 1/2 games in the division. The roles have reversed.