LAA@SEA: Pujols hits RBI double to cut deficit in 9th

HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols' struggles with runners in scoring position have been about as pronounced as they've been unseemly, his slash line at .167/.288/.288 in those situations heading into Wednesday's contest.

Can Josh Hamilton's presence help?

Will having a healthy, and productive, Hamilton batting behind him on an everyday basis translate to Pujols getting better pitches to hit with men on base or, at the very least, ease some of the pressure off him when it comes to driving in runs?

"I don't look at it like that," said Pujols, a career .328/.462/.619 hitter with runners in scoring position. "To me, it doesn't matter who's behind me or in front of me. The pitchers are going to be tough against me. They're not going to give me anything down the middle.

"I have to study and do my homework, too, and they're doing their homework. It doesn't matter. I've had great hitters my whole career hitting behind me. I need to execute. That hasn't happened this year so far, but I look forward to things turning around quickly here."

The Angels had a revolving door in the No. 4 spot during the eight weeks that Hamilton recovered from surgery in his left thumb, going with the likes of Howie Kendrick, David Freese and Raul Ibanez while getting a cumulative .691 OPS -- a mark that ranked 20th in the Majors with regard to cleanup hitters.

Pujols has still been getting strikes, with 47.2 percent of the pitches he's seen falling within the strike zone, a mark that's higher than his career rate of 46.7. And he's swung at 31.1 percent of pitches out of the zone, which is currently his lowest rate in four years.

But it still hasn't translated into prolonged success.

His overall slash line was .253/.312/.502 heading into Wednesday's game, and his batting average was .188 dating back to May 7.

"I think Josh in the middle swinging it well will have some sort of spill-over affect," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But to be totally honest with you, Albert is pretty independent."

Trout remains out, but MRI on back clean

LAA@HOU: Scioscia on Trout's recovery from back issue

HOUSTON -- The genesis of Mike Trout's back ailment is still a mystery, but a serious injury can now be ruled out.

Prior to Wednesday's game, Trout got a clean MRI on his back, which forced him to miss games on Saturday and Sunday and then get removed from the lineup after just one inning on Tuesday. The Angels' center fielder was told he merely has inflammation in his mid-left back, an ailment that isn't expected to land him on the disabled list.

Said Trout: "It's definitely good news."

"We're not anticipating a DL with Mike at all," Angels manager Mike Scioscia added. "In fact, the opposite. I think he's made enough progress where hopefully he'll be back in a couple of days."

Trout was out of the starting lineup for Wednesday's contest against the Astros, as anticipated, and said he's "not going to do much today, probably just go throw and see if I can hit in the cage." In his place, the Angels had Josh Hamilton in center field and Erick Aybar in the No. 2 spot.

The Angels currently have a six-man bullpen, giving them plenty of coverage as Trout recovers while on the active roster.

"Maybe I'll go tomorrow," Trout said, though the Angels will likely wait until at least Friday's home game against the White Sox.

"It's weird," Trout said of the back pain. "Little movements, left and right, that's when it bothers me. It's just uncomfortable sometimes."

Trout was scratched from the lineup on Saturday, after initially being listed as the designated hitter, then missed the Sunday afternoon game, got treatment during the team's off-day on Monday and felt good during pregame batting practice on Tuesday, prompting him to be inserted in the lineup -- only to be removed after a first-inning strikeout and a half inning on defense.

The 22-year-old admitted that "yesterday, before the game, I still felt it."

Now, he won't play until he knows for sure that the back is 100 percent healthy.

"If I don't feel it at all, I'll play, but I just have to be smart about it," said Trout, who's batting .293/.379/.546 on the season.

"Mike is a young player," Scioscia added. "It's that experience that you need to understand exactly when you need a day and when you can go out there and play. He'll be fine."

Worth noting

• The Angels' June 22 home game against the Rangers has been moved to a 5 p.m. PT start time, in order to be telecast on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. The Angels are off the following day, then wrap up their homestand with a three-game series against the Twins.

C.J. Wilson took the mound feeling under the weather on Tuesday, ultimately giving up five runs in the third inning, walking a season-high five batters and exiting after having recorded only eight outs.

The Angels could've used Matt Shoemaker in his spot, and pushed Wilson back to Saturday, but Scioscia said "it was definitely worth it to see if [Wilson] could get to a certain point in the game, and he felt strong enough to do that."

Raul Ibanez, batting .144/.255/.266 on the season, batted seventh on Wednesday, the lowest he's batted against an opposing right-hander -- in this case Jarred Cosart -- all season.

Asked about Ibanez, Scioscia said: "The talent is still there. He just hasn't found the timing, so you want to keep giving him those opportunities."

For now, he'll get those opportunities lower in the lineup.