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Angels search for series win over Astros

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels remain two games back of the second American League wild-card position with 17 games remaining, and manager Mike Scioscia believes they have the right lineup to stay in the hunt heading into their series finale against the Houston Astros on Thursday night.

The Angels acquired second baseman Brandon Phillips and left fielder Justin Upton on Aug. 31, and the duo slid into the top third of the batting order quite comfortably.

Phillips is 4-for-8 with two doubles and two RBI through the first two games of the Houston series, and Upton launched his first home run with Los Angeles in a 9-1 victory on Wednesday. The Astros won the series opener 1-0 on Tuesday.

"Our lineup is as deep as we've seen it in a while here," said Scioscia, who is in his 18th season as the Angels' manager. "We're getting guys up with guys on base that we really want, and I think it's going to have a positive effect on what we need to do here in the next couple weeks."

The Angels need more consistency from their starting pitching, and they will turn to right-hander Ricky Nolasco in the series finale.

Nolasco (6-13, 5.19 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season against the Astros. He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA against Houston this year, and 7-2 with a 3.82 ERA vs. the Astros in his career, his best winning percentage against any major league club.

Houston catcher Brian McCann has feasted on Nolasco in his career, however.

McCann is 26-for-76 (.342) with nine home runs and 28 RBI. He is not alone, as Carlos Beltran is 20-for-57 (.351), Jose Altuve is 7-for-14 and Cameron Maybin is 8-for-13 (.615), all with one home run apiece off Nolasco.

Nolasco has allowed 34 home runs this season, third most in the majors.

Brad Peacock (10-2, 3.05 ERA) will make his third start against the Angels this season and second in the past three weeks. He allowed one run and three hits in six innings in Anaheim on Aug. 26 but didn't receive the win after the Angels scored four runs in the eighth to win 7-6.

That was a much better performance against Los Angeles than on June 9, when Peacock was touched for four runs and seven hits in three innings of a 9-4 loss in Houston.

Peacock is 3-2 overall in his career against the Angels with a 4.64 ERA.

Peacock is filling Collin McHugh's spot in the rotation, though he is still starting on four days' rest. He gave up two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings in an 11-4 loss against the Oakland A's on Saturday, but he wound up with a no-decision.

McHugh left after three innings the night before in Oakland because of a fingernail injury, though he has since thrown without discomfort.

Peacock has five no-decisions in his past six starts and hasn't won since Aug. 4. Still, manager A.J. Hinch said Peacock remains a viable candidate to stick in the rotation. That further raises the stakes of his Thursday outing as Houston's magic number to clinch the AL West remains at five over the Angels.

"I have huge confidence in Peacock," Hinch told the Houston Chronicle before the Wednesday game. "I think he's very much a candidate to start down the stretch, complete the season as a starter (and go) well into postseason baseball and be a starter because of how effective he is."

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