Getting swept at home by the last-place Houston Astros had to be one of the low points of the season for the Los Angeles Angels.
They can return the favor Sunday in Houston as they try for their longest unbeaten road trip in nearly 11 years.
One of the favorites to challenge for the AL West heading into 2013, Los Angeles fell 11 games out of first place June 3 as the Astros finished a four-game sweep in Anaheim with their season-best sixth consecutive win.
While the Angels (38-43) are still well off Texas' and Oakland's pace in the division race, they've hit the halfway point of the season on a five-game winning streak following Saturday's 7-2 victory. They've gone 11-5 since a 2-9 skid that started with a 6-3 loss to Houston (30-51) on May 31.
The Angels have won six in a row on the road - their longest run since a 10-0 stretch last season - and are now eyeing their first 6-0 trip since Sept. 2-8, 2002.
Scheduled starter C.J. Wilson (7-5, 3.88 ERA) hasn't been at his best outside Anaheim, going 3-3 with a 5.36 ERA in eight outings. He allowed five runs in five innings of Tuesday's 14-8 victory at Detroit, telling the Angels' official website it was one of his "worst outings of the season," but it was also his season-best third straight winning start.
Wilson hasn't had a longer such streak since going 4-0 from Aug. 15-30, 2010, while with Texas.
He'll get his fourth look at the Astros this season. In the only one at Houston, he had a season-high 12 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings but surrendered all the runs - just two earned - in a 7-6 loss May 7. The left-hander split the other two starts but pitched well in both, yielding four runs in 13 1-3 innings.
Wilson will face an Astros team batting .182 while dropping three of four to open a nine-game homestand.
However, Brett Wallace has a hit in all four games since getting called back up while driving in five runs, including a two-run homer Saturday.
"He just looks like he has much more confidence," manager Bo Porter said. "... he's attacking the ball."
Lucas Harrell (5-8, 4.84) will try to attack an Angels lineup batting .296 with 35 runs during their winning streak.
Los Angeles, though, has scored just three runs in two matchups with the right-hander this season, and two came off solo homers by Josh Hamilton.
Harrell didn't give up any long balls in his last outing, but he was tagged for seven runs in 3 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 13-5 loss to St. Louis. He had a 1.73 ERA in his first four starts this month.
"I left the ball up, and when you leave the ball up against a team that hits they're going to hit," Harrell said.
Hamilton is starting to do that, going 8 for 19 on the trip to lift his batting average to .221. He also made two superb catches at the wall Saturday, possibly robbing home runs each time.
"If you don't do it at the plate you want to do it in the field, and during that stretch I wasn't doing it either way," he said. "I felt like I wasn't. But I feel better."
Mike Trout has a team-high 10 hits on the road trip but has only a single in six at_bats off Harrell. So do Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols, who enters in a 1-for-16 slump.
Erick Aybar has hit .417 with eight RBIs in the past six games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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