The Astros and Angels entered the 2013 season with expectations that couldn't be further apart. The Angels had World Series hopes and the Astros were building from the ground up with a roster full of talented yet unproven young players.
While there is still plenty of baseball left to be played, the Astros are just one game shy of the Angels in the win column and have a chance to sweep their vaunted American League West peers on Thursday.
Sitting at 11 games below .500, the Angels are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history, but some of the team's biggest stars -- Mike Trout and Albert Pujols -- believe the team will turn it around.
"We're staying positive, just grinding, trying to get out of it obviously," Trout said. "But, these are the games we have to win."
Pujols echoed Trout's sentiments.
"We're fine," Pujols said. "We're just losing series, games we need to win. It's part of baseball. It's stuff you can't control. You think we don't want to win? We want to win, it's just things that happen. It's unbelievable."
After losing six straight, the Astros have now won back-to-back games for the first time since April 23-24 and are looking for their first sweep of 2013.
Lucas Harrell is coming off his worst start of the season, but pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing one run against the Angels earlier this season.
Harrell allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start, but benefited from the experience.
"I think the big thing I learned from last start is when you're making good pitches, don't try to do too much," Harrell said. "I felt like the first inning I made a lot of good pitches and they got some weak hits, and it kind of got away from me early on and it really hurt me. Just keep doing what you're supposed to do and don't deviate from your plan. When you do that, you get yourself in trouble, and that was my own fault."
Angels: Pujols supports Scioscia
Throughout the Angels' tumultuous start, media and fans have put blame in various places. Some have blamed the players, some have blamed manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher has received his share of blame as well.
Pujols has been through disappointing seasons before and feels the blame directed at Scioscia is unfair.
"He writes the lineup, he makes decisions in the middle of the game, but at the end, he can't pitch for us, he can't play defense for us, he can't hit for us," Pujols said. "We need to take care of ourselves and do the things that we need to do to win."
Astros: Players reach out to Happ
When Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was struck in the head by a line drive on Tuesday night, it shook the whole baseball community, but it had a different impact on some of the Astros players who used to be teammates with Happ.
Happ spent two seasons as a member of the Astros and was released from the hospital Wednesday morning. Houston catcher Jason Castro reached out to him on Tuesday.
"He texted me back this morning and said he's feeling better," Castro said. "I saw a little clip of him on TV leaving the hospital. I haven't heard much from him, but he said he's feeling better. It's scary to see that, but hopefully he can have a quick recovery and be back up here."
• Left-handed pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Erik Bedard are both back in the Astros rotation.
Keuchel will start Friday's game against the Rangers and Bedard will start Saturday.
• Jason Vargas allowed three runs in five innings of work in his only career start against the Astros. However, he has had much more success against the current Astros roster as they are only 2-for-27 against the left-hander.
• The Astros, in their first year as members of the American League West, have won three of four against the Angels. All-time, the Astros have taken 6-5 against the Angels.
William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.