Trout looks to lead Angels to Houston for first place battle.

By David Rice
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With the Angels reeling a little bit losing three straight games they turned to Mr. Reliable, Mr. MVP, or more simply Mike Trout and as has been the case for the past      3 plus season Trout delivered again.  In the first inning Trout got the Angels going by hitting an opposite field home run to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead.  In the fifth his single moved Kole Calhoun to second, then after an Albert Pujols single moved Calhoun to 3rd where he scored the go-ahead run on an Erick Aybar sacrifice fly to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.  In the 6th after the Angels loaded the bases Trout came through big time hitting his major league leading 31st home run, a grand slam that extended the lead to 8-2.  Trout would cap his big day in the 8th inning as he led off with a single and later would come around to score on an Aybar single to complete his day.  Trout ended the game going 4 for 4 with two home runs and five RBI’s, and he also scored three runs.  This backed another fine outing by rookie Andrew Heaney who gave up two runs in six innings of work while improving to 5-0 on the season with a 1.79 ERA.  The bullpen got touched for five runs in the final three innings, but the Angels were still able to cruise to a 13-7 victory, coupled with Houston’s 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals allowed the Angels to move back into solo possession of first place.

The Angels now will now embark on an important six game road trip that will include a trip to Texas to battle the Houston Astros who have been the Angels chief competition in the AL West.  Although it is only late July this is still a big series for both teams as they will not play again until mid-September.  In late June when the Angels and Astros last met the Angels started their climb toward first place winning two of three games from Houston to take the series.  The Angels would not lose another series until this weekend when the Rangers took two out of three games.  During that stretch the Angels won 19 of 25 games and went from second place 5.5 games behind the Astros to first place two games ahead of Houston.  Will this three-game series spark one of these two teams going in August? Houston definitely hopes this is the case and they recently bolstered their starting rotation with the acquisition of lefty Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A’s last week.  Tuesday’s matchup will feature the Angels’ C.J. Wilson who was rocked by the Astros back in June giving up 7 earned runs in 3.1 innings in a 13-3 loss.  Wilson is 0-2 with a 8.10 ERA vs. Houston this season.  Colin McHugh will oppose Wilson and he is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA against the Angels this season. In game two of the series the Angels will send Garrett Richards to the mound.  Richards made his 2015 debut in late April against the Astros and gave up three earned runs in a 4-3 Houston victory.  However, the next time Richards faced Houston on May 10th Richards shut the Astros down allowing only 1 run on one hit in 6.2 innings pitched to get the win.  He will be opposed by Lance McCullers who limited the Angels to one run on four hits in six innings getting a no-decision in a 2-1 Angels extra-inning victory. In the final game of the series on Thursday the Angels send Matt Shoemaker to the mound for possibly his last start as Jered Weaver should be ready to take his spot in the rotation when he comes off the DL late next week.  Shoemaker pitched well in his last start against Minnesota shutting them out for six innings allowing only two hits and striking out a career-high 10 strikeouts in a 7-0 Angels victory.  However, in his only start this season against Houston, Shoemaker gave up six runs in three innings in taking the loss.  The Astros will counter with Kazmir who in his first start for Houston shutout the Royals for seven innings in a 4-0 victory.  Kazmir faced the Angels once with the A’s back on June 21st and he shut the Angels down allowing only one run in 7.1 innings of a 4-1 A’s victory.  So what about Trout?  He is 8 for 36 .222 avg. with 4 home runs and 10 RBI’s and 6 runs scored in 10 games against Houston this year.  Albert Pujols is 8 for 34 .235 avg.  versus the Astros with 3 HR’s and 4 RBI’s.  Kole Calhoun had a slightly better average going 10 for 38 .264 avg. but 0 HR’s and only 3 RBI’s.  Erick Aybar has the best splits against the Astros going 12 for 39 .307 avg. with 2 RBI’s and 8 runs scored.  Overall this season the Angels and Astros have split 10 games as they have each won five games a piece.

This series may not determine much in the standings, but the significance of it could be huge especially after what the Angels did following the June series.  No matter what happens you will definitely see two teams who will battle until the final pitch. It should be fun.

; Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (56) celebrates with Mike Trout (27), Albert Pujols (5), and Erick Aybar (2) after scoring a run. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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