Despite dropping Thursday's series finale of a three-game set against Oakland, the Astros are still fresh off their first road series win since sweeping the Angels in early June. Friday night, they'll return to the scene as the Halos welcome them for a weekend series at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Houston took its first two games against the A's this week, ending a streak of 12 straight series losses this summer. That short winning streak may seem inconsequential, but it's the best road stretch the Astros have put together since the last time they were in Southern California.
The teams seem to go to the extremes against each other, with Houston taking all four games at the Angels and then Los Angeles responding four weeks later with a three-game sweep in Houston.
While the Astros appear to be careening toward another 100-loss season, the Angels -- who entered the season with astronomical expectations -- haven't been too much better, slotting in one spot ahead of Houston in the American League West table.
They did get back on the board Thursday, snapping a four-game losing streak with an 8-4 win over the Yankees.
The Angels pitching staff has been jumbled all season, leaving them in the bottom third of starting ERA in the AL.
Jerome WIlliams has benefited from that constant shuffle, elevating from spot starter to consistent contributor during the last two months. He'll get the ball Friday against the Astros.
Through 5 2/3 innings his last time out against Cleveland, Williams had faced one batter over the minimum and struck out seven. And then, in a matter of 11 pitches to four batters, he gave up a pair two-run homers and exited the game.
"Baseball is a game where you just never know what's going to happen, and that's what happened today," he said. "I pitched good for the first five. That sixth inning just came out of nowhere. I just didn't execute pitches when I had to and they took advantage of it."
Williams has an 8.59 ERA since the start of July. But when Jason Vargas was activated, the Angels somewhat surprisingly chose to option Tommy Hanson to the Minors rather than send Williams to the bullpen.
The Angels have lost the last six games Williams has started, with the righty getting a decision in four of them.
His last time facing Houston, he tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball with five hits in a 4-2 victory, though he didn't earn the win.
This time, he'll face a Houston lineup that is deceptively cold despite the recent wins in Oakland. The Astros have scored just nine runs in their last 49 innings, dating back to the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to Texas on Aug. 10.
Seven of those nine runs came during a pair of one-run wins over the A's, which were Houston's first consecutive wins since winning four in a row from June 12-16.
Against the Angels, Houston will run out Brad Peacock, who has twice been a hard-luck loser (four runs over 13 innings of work) in two starts this month since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. He's joined a slew of his Redhawk teammates, like Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer, in the Majors, where they have a combined 1.34 ERA in 11 starts.
"It's been fun to watch," Peacock said. "I played with these guys down in Triple-A and just to watch them succeed is awesome to see. I'm happy for them."
"I've been throwing more strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone and getting ground balls. I worked hard down there and glad to see it paying off. Hopefully I can carry it over."
Peacock faced the Halos once this season, hurling 1 1/3 innings of relief work but allowing a two-run homer to Hank Conger in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win on June 2.
Angels: Roster features new faces
When the Astros and Angels take the field Friday night, both squads will be far cries from the ones that met as divisional rivals for the first time back in April.
Of late, the Angels are particularly unrecognizable. Injuries to Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos, plus the trades of Scott Downs and Alberto Callaspo and pitcher Tommy Hanson's demotion makes the team that salvaged a win to prevent a four-game Yankees sweep vastly different from the one that opened the season in Cincinnati on April 1.
Of the 25 players on the Angels' active roster, eight weren't with the club on Opening Day.
"We do have a lot of new faces," first baseman Mark Trumbo said. "If you said at this point this was the roster we'd have out there, I don't think a lot of people would've believed you."
Astros: Porter in favor of more replay
With the announcement Thursday of a challenge system expected to be approved in November as part of an effort to expand instant replay in Major League Baseball, a number of managers are in support of the measure.
The Astros' Bo Porter, whose team benefited from a favorable review late in Tuesday's game, said he's in favor of more replay because getting the call correct is ultimately the most important thing.
"As it relates to replay, I've always had the same stance: I think at this level of the game, you always want to get it right, especially home runs," Porter said. "The biggest question when you start to talk about replay is when the ball is still in play, it's where to place the runners [i.e., during a home run that's overturned and ruled a double] … I will adapt accordingly and go with it."
• Shortstop Erick Aybar was back in the lineup for Thursday's finale in New York, and he went 1-for-5 with a run scored in an 8-4 win. Aybar left Tuesday's game in the third inning with a cramp in his left calf and then sat out Wednesday's contest.
• While Houston had lost 12 straight series, the Oakland series triumph also snapped a run of 14 winless sets, with a split two-game series against St. Louis being the Astros' only relief during the past nine weeks.
• Both Peacock and Williams enter the game with a win-loss mark that is three game below .500. Williams is 5-8 and Peacock sits at 1-4, with each splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.