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HOU@CWS: Clemens solid in first Major League start

Paul Clemens is one of several rookies in the Astros' rotation attempting to solidify himself as a reliable starting option entering Spring Training. He'll have a chance Sunday against a familiar foe.

Although Sunday will mark Clemens' third Major League start, he's already made three appearances against the Angels. Clemens made 30 relief appearances before joining the rotation and he struggled against a potent Los Angeles lineup, giving up four runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings with a pair of home runs.

Clemens will try to contain Howie Kendrick, who has a pair of singles, a double, an RBI and two runs scored since returning from a 33-game absence with a hyperextended knee on Friday. Chris Iannetta has also proven a problem for Astros pitching, homering in the first two games of the even series.

"I didn't really have many expectations coming back to playing every day," Kendrick said.

He'll try to stay hot to back Angels starter Jerome Williams, who has a 1-4 career record against the Astros, but a 3.92 ERA and a pair of quality starts earlier this season. He didn't last five innings the last time he faced Houston, though, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings of an Aug. 16 loss.

Astros: Crowe provides different look in three-hole
Outfielder Trevor Crowe hit third against the Angels on Saturday, and manager Bo Porter said he might again on Sunday. But Crowe, who is hitting .246 with just one homer in 46 games, is not your traditional three-hole hitter.

"Well, balance-wise it fits good with our lineup," Porter said. "One, that he's a switch-hitter. We have two speed guys in front of him [Jonathan Villar and Jose Altuve]. Trevor Crowe's a good fastball hitter. When you have two speed guys in front of him, you're going to see some more fastballs. Just from a balance standpoint of having a right-handed bat against a lefty has allowed him to get some good pitches and has driven in some big runs for us."

Crowe went 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored Saturday, and has 12 RBIs on the season.

Angels: Both backstops deserve playing time
As a Major League catcher for 13 seasons, Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows the importance of balancing rest for a catcher over a 162-game season. And with two capable backstops on his club, Scioscia doesn't have to worry about overworking either Iannetta or Hank Conger.

"They've shared the burden physically," Scioscia said. "There's not one guy that's been out there. Chris and Hank have been out there for, at this point in the season, 120 to 130 games. They've had time to catch their breath at times during the season."

Iannetta started the first two games at Minute Maid Park, going 4-for-8 with a double, two homers, three runs scored and three RBIs.

Worth noting
• With a 10-8 record against their new divisional rivals, the Astros enter Sunday's finale guaranteed to win the season series. Comments