May 8, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. (12) give a pat on the back to third baseman Alex Bregman (2) after scoring a run in the third inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Angels can guarantee the Houston Astros a fourth consecutive series loss on Tuesday night when the American League West rivals meet in Anaheim, Calif., for the second game in a three-game set.
Houston has dropped three consecutive games, five of the past six and seven of the past 10.
The prospect of absent players rejoining the lineup provides some optimism for the Astros.
Chas McCormick was back Monday after missing nearly a month due to a back ailment, and Michael Brantley, rehabbing from 2022 shoulder surgery, could return this week, according to The Athletic.
McCormick said ahead of the opener against the Angels, “I’m excited for it. I just want to be here with my guys. I just felt bad that I was off and not being able to play, swing the bat. But I got a lot of good work in Corpus (Christi, Houston’s Double-A affiliate); I was happy with how I felt up there. It was good to get a couple games under my belt.”
McCormick went 0-for-4 on Monday in his first major league appearance since April 14. He was one of four Astros starters who went hitless, and they will look to regroup on Tuesday opposite the Angels’ most effective starter of 2023.
Left-hander Framber Valdez (2-4, 2.60 ERA) will start on Tuesday for Houston, looking to avoid his third consecutive loss. Valdez pitched six strong innings in his last time out, Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants, striking eight and allowing just two runs.
However, with the Astros giving him little offensive support, Valdez took a 4-2 defeat. He also lost 3-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies on April 28 despite throwing seven solid innings.
Valdez is 7-4 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 career outings (11 starts) against the Angels. He went 1-1 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts vs. Los Angeles last year.
Los Angeles rebounded from a pair of lopsided defeats over the weekend to the Texas Rangers with a 6-4 win over Houston on Monday. Brandon Drury’s RBI triple to deep center broke a 4-4 stalemate in the eighth inning, and Matt Thaiss followed with a sacrifice fly.
“Everyone has that fight in them in this lineup, and it’s just been fun to be a part of it,” Angels leadoff man Taylor Ward, who went 3-for-4 on Monday, said of the rally in his postgame interview with Bally Sports West. “Hopefully, we can continue it.”
While Los Angeles looks to continue on its recent trajectory, having won six of eight despite the blowout losses Saturday and Sunday to the Rangers, the Astros are trying to turn things around.
Right-hander Shohei Ohtani (4-0, 2.54 ERA) will take the mound for Los Angeles, looking to maintain his perfect record for the season. Ohtani’s last start did not produce a decision, though the Angels’ multidimensional star and former AL Most Valuable Player matched his career high with 13 strikeouts Wednesday at St. Louis.
Ohtani went five innings against the Cardinals, marking just his second time he lasted less than six this season. He yielded four runs on five hits and a walk.
Ohtani is 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 career starts against Houston, including a five-inning win against the Astros last September in which he struck out seven. He also will look to stay hot at the plate after a 2-for-4 performance with a pair of run-scoring doubles on Monday.
–Field Level Media contributed to this article