Despite injuries to several key players, including Josh Hamilton and David Freese, the Angels have won eight of their past 11 games to grab sole possession of second place in the American League West. Their starting pitching has carried them, posting a 3.59 ERA through the first 44 games of the season.
The Halos hope that trend will continue on Tuesday night, when they are scheduled to give the ball to left-hander Tyler Skaggs, whose starts they've won seven of eight times. Skaggs did have some trouble in his most recent outing, on May 15 against the Rays, but avoided the loss when Mike Trout hit his first career walk-off homer.
Skaggs will have his work cut out for him with the Astros, as Houston has been red-hot of late, having scored five runs or more (eight twice) in five of its past six contests. Over that span Astros hitters are batting a collective .302.
Houston is scheduled to send right-hander Scott Feldman to the mound. Feldman has pitched well so far, with a 2.63 ERA over his first six starts. He said on Monday that he'll have his hands full, however, with the Angels' lineup.
"They're a very difficult lineup, even with the injuries they've had," Feldman said. "The guys filling in here have stepped in and done a great job."
Feldman has struggled against the Halos. In 23 career appearances (14 starts), he is 5-6 with a 4.97 ERA. He has had recent success against them, however, posting a 2.08 ERA in his last three starts. That includes an April 6 outing in Houston in which he went seven innings, giving up one run on three hits in a 7-4 Astros victory.
Astros: Solid backstops
Astros catchers have only allowed one passed ball all season, second in the American League only to the Orioles, who have none. Houston backstops have also only committed two errors in 2014.
"Obviously, [Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan] are working hard, not just to be tough outs in the box but when they're on the defensive end, and it's fun for our pitchers," Feldman said.
"Our catchers have done a tremendous job, not only blocking balls but calling pitches and getting in the right position," manager Bo Porter said. "A lot of it has to do with the confidence our pitchers have in them. But it's also a credit to Castro and Corporan for doing all the things it takes to be a top-notch catcher in this league."
Angels: Cowgill taking advantage
Outfielder Collin Cowgill surprisingly sat against an opposing left-hander on Monday, partly because of a tight hip flexor but mostly because he had started 17 of the previous 18 games.
Cowgill has been an everyday player while corner outfielders Kole Calhoun and Hamilton have been on the disabled list, and he's making the most of it. Heading into the three-game series against the Astros, the 27-year-old sported a .301/.398/.409 slash line while contributing his typically above-average speed and defense.
He'll probably be in the lineup on Tuesday.
"He's made the most of his opportunity, for sure," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Collin's always been a guy who had some really good tools but never really had an opportunity to get out there and get after it like he has these last three weeks. Safe to say, he's played really well and shown very well in all aspects."
• The Angels have led at some point in 12 of their 20 losses. Eight of their last 14 losses have been by one run.
• The Astros' 5-2 win over the Angels on Monday was their fifth victory in their last 14 contests with the Halos.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.