Fresh off a stretch of playing the A's seven times in 10 games, the Angels started September with a reprieve of sorts -- two games against the Astros. Given the disparity between the teams, it represented a chance for Los Angeles to catch its breath a bit and, maybe, pad its lead in the American League West.
But the opener of the series didn't go as the Angels expected, as they lost, 8-3, on Tuesday night, snapping their six-game win streak. And so they call on their ace, Jered Weaver, to oppose fellow righty Collin McHugh at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday.
A win would mean a split for the Angels, whose division lead over the A's is 4 1/2 games, to start a 10-game road trip. They'll be off to Minnesota for a four-game weekend series after playing the Astros, followed by a makeup game in Cleveland before returning to the Lone Star State for three with the Rangers next week.
Weaver is tasked with picking up the first win of the journey. He will be looking to build on one of his best starts of the season, on Friday, when he threw seven shutout innings against the A's. He scattered three hits and three walks while striking out three, five days after allowing Oakland three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
"Seven innings was big for us tonight, and he pitched his heart out," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said on Friday. "When you face a team consecutively in five days, there's no doubt that there's a little chess match that goes on, some adjustments to your game plan. I thought Weave had much better stuff tonight than he did in Oakland, and I thought he really took advantage of it."
Weaver has already faced Houston twice this season. In 14 2/3 innings, he has struck out 11 and walked one while allowing six runs.
One of those games -- a complete-game win on May 21 -- was against McHugh. McHugh pitched well -- holding Los Angeles to two runs in seven innings -- just as he has done most of the season.
McHugh, who is still a rookie following cups of coffee in 2012 and 2013, has more or less penciled himself into the Astros' 2015 rotation with a 2.99 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 21 starts this season. He has also struck out more than a batter per inning.
August treated McHugh especially well. He posted the best ERA (1.91), WHIP (1.14) and strikeout-to-walk rate (5.0) of any of his four full months in the Majors this season. Five of his six outings were quality, including the previous one, a seven-inning, two-run effort against the Rangers.
Angels: September callups make for a full 'pen
Of the 11 players the Angels called up on Tuesday, four -- Cam Bedrosian, Wade LeBlanc, Vinnie Pestano and Cory Rasmus -- are pitchers. That means Los Angeles is playing with a 12-man bullpen.
"Given where we are, given our roster, [analyzing] where our rotation is, there's no doubt we needed to add some arms," Scioscia said. "And we're going to continue adding some arms here in probably another week or 10 days."
The extra pitchers came in handy pretty quickly. C.J. Wilson lasted just 3 1/3 innings on Tuesday, so the Angels had to call on their relievers for 4 2/3 innings. Bedrosian, Pestano and LeBlanc were among those who saw action.
Astros: Altuve on a tear, again
When Jose Altuve deposited a 2-0 changeup into the left-field seats on Tuesday, he became the first Astros player to hit in six straight at-bats since Brandon Barnes did it in July 2013. Altuve went 4-for-5 on Sunday, with hits in his final four at-bats, before his single and homer extended the streak.
It's Altuve's latest feat as he strives for what would be the Astros' first batting title. If he does, he would join Joe Mauer (2006) and Alex Rodriguez (1996) as the only AL players 24 or younger to win a batting title in the last 20 seasons.
Tuesday's 4-for-5 effort raised his average to a Major League-best .340, though his streak ended when he grounded out in the fourth. He ended his night with two more hits.
With 193 hits, Altuve is well on his way to becoming the second Astro to reach 200 in a season, following Craig Biggio, who had a club-record 210 in 1998, when he hit .325.
• Los Angeles left-hander Joe Thatcher is expected back in seven to 10 days, according to Scioscia. Thatcher, nursing a sprained left ankle, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday.
• Astros rookie outfielder George Springer has been out since mid-July with a strained left quad, but general manager Jeff Luhnow on Tuesday left the door open for him playing again this season. The club hasn't made public a timetable for Springer's return.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.