The ending wasn't quite what they hoped for but the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday continued to flex the power that has buoyed them during the opening weeks of this season.
The Angels, who entered their series finale against the Texas Rangers tied for fourth in the American League with 21 home runs, bashed four homers in their 7-4 home loss. Mike Trout (six home runs), Shohei Ohtani (five) and Justin Upton (four) all homered in the loss for the Angels, whose power display has been impressive with third baseman Anthony Rendon (groin) sidelined.
Rendon is eligible for reinstatement from the injured list this weekend when the Angels face their AL West rivals, the Houston Astros, in a four-game road series starting on Thursday.
"A lot of good at-bats, even that last inning we hit four balls well," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall I thought it was a good day; they (the Rangers) have pretty good pitching, too.
"I thought we had good at-bats against a pretty good staff. Put balls in play ... had opportunities."
Right-hander Alex Cobb (1-0, 4.63 ERA) will start for the Angels on Thursday after having his previous start pushed back due to unspecified reasons. Cobb was initially slated to start on Sunday but that game was postponed after the Minnesota Twins had COVID-19 issues.
Cobb last started on April 12, allowing three runs on four hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a 10-3 road win over the Kansas City Royals. He is 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA over three career starts against the Astros, whom he last faced on July 31, 2017, while with the Rays.
Right-hander Cristian Javier (1-0, 2.08) will start the series opener for the Astros. Javier was recalled from the alternate training site where he was sent following his second start to work on his endurance.
Javier logged a total of 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts this season, although he did work five scoreless frames while allowing three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in a 6-2 home victory over the Oakland Athletics on April 8.
Javier is 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA against the Angels after having allowed three runs on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 home victory on Aug. 25, 2020.
The Astros return home on the heels of a 1-4 road trip that concluded with a two-game sweep to the Colorado Rockies. Houston has dropped nine of 10 games and fallen into the division cellar.
The opener against Colorado offered a microcosm of their slide. Right-hander Luis Garcia carried a shutout into the sixth inning only to tire and allow two runs that frame before departing with two outs. The Houston bullpen, taxed by injuries and a starting staff that has struggled working deep into games, allowed four runs on four hits and a walk and recorded just seven outs.
The Astros scored eight runs over the last four games of their road trip. If the starting pitching doesn't falter, the bullpen does, or a lineup beset by absences fails to produce when needed.
"It seems like right now, whatever way we turn seems like it's wrong," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "We're going through a bad period and this happens when things aren't going good. It seems like no matter who you turn to right now, it's the wrong decision."
--Field Level Media