Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels showed signs of improvement offensively at home while ending a franchise-worst losing streak against AL West opponents.
That's a trend Jason Vargas hopes continues Sunday when he tries to lead the Angels to their second win in seven home meetings with the Houston Astros.Hamilton broke out of his lengthy slump at Angel Stadium with a walk-off home run in Saturday's 6-5, 10-inning victory. Los Angeles (55-67) hadn't won a division game since beating Oakland on July 25, snapping a team-record 10-game skid.While Hamilton is batting .400 with 14 RBIs during a 10-game road hitting streak, he had been hitting .054 (2 for 37) in his previous 10 at home before Saturday's 2-for-5 performance."Everybody I've talked to says players go through seasons like this, and this is the first season I've ever gone through like this," said Hamilton, hitting a career-low .227 but with five home runs in his last 14 games against the Astros.Teammate Mark Trumbo added his 27th home run as the Angels ended a five-game home skid to major league-worst Houston (40-82) in which they averaged 2.0 runs and hit .211.Los Angeles looks to build on Saturday's 12-hit performance with Vargas (6-5, 3.86 ERA) starting the series finale.Vargas showed some rust in his first start since having surgery to remove a blood clot from near his left armpit on June 26, allowing four runs and eight hits -- two homers -- over 4 1/3 innings in Tuesday's 14-7 loss at Yankee Stadium."I think he threw the ball a little better than maybe some things are going to show," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's building into a little bit of stamina and he'll be better next time."The left-hander hopes to make that progression and improve on his 5-1 record and 3.13 ERA in eight home starts.Vargas, though, did not pitch well against the Astros on May 9, allowing a season high-tying five runs and 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings before the Angels rallied late for a 6-5 road win May 9.Jose Altuve went 3 for 3 when facing Vargas in that contest, while Matt Dominguez was 2 for 2 with three RBIs. Vargas has done a nice job against Chris Carter, who is 1 for 12 with six strikeouts in this matchup.Carter, however, is 8 for 20 with three homers and 10 RBIs over a six-game hitting streak in Anaheim. Robbie Grossman has also been on a road tear, batting .438 during a 12-game run there.The Astros will attempt to regroup with their fourth win in six games by giving the ball to rookie Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 2.57).After posting a 7.36 ERA in three relief appearances, the left-hander has been superb since joining the rotation. He's 2-1 with a 0.87 ERA in three starts and is holding opponents to a .187 batting average during that span.Oberholtzer pitched well enough to win Monday, allowing two runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss to Yu Darvish and Texas.He might have to figure out a way to retire Mike Trout, who looks to extend his on-base streak to 40 consecutive games. The All-Star is batting .400 in an eight-game home hitting streak against the Astros.