After tough end to first half, Angels return to battle Astros

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Field Level Media
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Jul 4, 2023; San Diego, California, USA;  Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Petco Park.
Jul 4, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Petco Park.
Image: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels are hoping to exit the All-Star break in better shape than they entered

They'll get their first opportunity to turn things around when they host the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night in Anaheim, Calif

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The Angels have lost five in a row and nine of their last 10 to drop them out of a wild-card spot that they briefly held at the end of June

Los Angeles manager Phil Nevin is hoping the second half of the season will serve as a clean slate for the Angels

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"Getting away from this for six days couldn't come at a better time, to be honest with you," Nevin said heading into the break.

The Angels' recent downturn coincided with a rash of injuries

Most recently, three-time American League MVP Mike Trout went down with a fractured hamate bone on July 3, an injury that will keep him out at least through this month.

The injury bug actually began on June 15, when shortstop Zach Neto sat out with an oblique injury and hasn't played since. The same day, versatile infielder Gio Urshela went down with a fractured pelvis, ending his season.

Since then, Neto and Urshela have been joined on the injured list by second baseman Brandon Drury (shoulder), and third baseman Anthony Rendon missed 12 games after getting hit in the forearm with a pitch and then sat out the final three games before the break after fouling a pitch off his shin.

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"We've been going through a hard time the last two weeks, and it's been for a lot of reasons," Nevin said. "At the end of the day, we haven't played well. We've had our share of injuries, but we just have not played well. We're better than this."

The Astros lost three of four to the Seattle Mariners before the All-Star break, but they only trail the Texas Rangers by two games for first place in the AL West

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Houston is also dealing with some injuries, namely to second baseman Jose Altuve and left fielder Yordan Alvarez, both of whom are sidelined with oblique injuries.

Astros right-hander Jose Urquidy is also out with right shoulder inflammation

"I think the best days are ahead," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "The best days have been ahead since we lost all those guys, and the key is to get them back, but to get them back ready. You don't want to get them back when you're not ready. ... They're on the way; they're real close. We've just got to win some games and stay where we are until we get them back.

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The Angels plan to send right-hander Shohei Ohtani to the mound for the series opener

Ohtani (7-4, 3.32 ERA) lost his most recent outing, allowing five runs and seven hits in five innings of an 8-5 loss to the San Diego Padres on July 4.

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The Astros plan to counter with right-hander J.P. France

France (4-3, 3.26) has won his past two outings, most recently allowing three runs and six hits over six innings in a 6-4 win against the Colorado Rockies on July 5.

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--Field Level Media