The baseball world may need time to get get used to it, but Friday's showdown between the Astros and Angels in Anaheim is, indeed, the dawn of a brand-new American League West rivalry.
Houston has opened the season with a de facto division tour, facing all four of its new foes to start the campaign. That stretch concludes this weekend with three games against the Angels.
Bud Norris will start the opener for the Astros, who have won two straight. The right-hander is trying to rebound from poor road splits in 2012, when he went 3-12 with a 6.94 ERA in 18 starts outside of Houston.
"The things I can control are the things I know I need to get better at on the road," said Norris, who has looked sharp in two starts at Minute Maid Park. "I need to go out there and heighten my awareness on the road and just be comfortable in those parks, too."
Norris was undone by three unearned runs in the sixth inning of a 6-3 loss to Oakland in his last time out. In total he surrendered two earned runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"[Norris] did a tremendous job," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He grew up, he bowed his neck, he did what a No. 1 starter should do when the bullpen is light. He pitched his heart out."
Angels righty Tommy Hanson counters Norris, looking to follow an impressive debut against the Rangers. On a day where the ball was flying out of the park in Texas, Hanson held the Rangers to three runs in six innings -- but he did allow a pair of home runs.
"Obviously that was where the ball was jumping out, and the conditions weren't great, but you still have to go out and get pitches," Hanson said. "My biggest thing was trying to stay down in the zone, and when I didn't is when those balls got hit hard. I felt really good with how I threw there."
Hanson attributes his early success to feeling comfortable throwing his curveball.
"I feel really good with my curveball right now," Hanson said. "I don't know if it's release point or just where my arm slot was going through, but yeah, I felt that in Texas and felt it again in my bullpen, so hopefully I can just keep it right there."
One man who isn't new to a rivalry with the Astros is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, a longtime St. Louis Cardinals slugger. In 177 games against Houston, Pujols is hitting .311 with 42 homers and 112 RBIs.
Astros: Wallace slumping
Mired in an 0-for-19 slump, Brett Wallace wasn't in the starting lineup on Wednesday. Porter hopes the day off, coupled with the club's off-day on Thursday will help the first baseman, who is 1-for-21 on the season with 17 K's, regroup.
"Sometimes you need to take a step back," Porter said. "You can be trying so hard with extra work and video and reading game reports and over-analyzing each and every at-bat to where you probably need to take a step back."
But things don't get much easier for Wallace. In his career against Hanson, he is 0-for-9 with five strikeouts.
Angels: Trout in two hole
Prior to Thursday's series finale against the A's, manager Mike Scioscia moved Mike Trout down to the No. 2 spot.
Third baseman Alberto Callaspo moved into the leadoff position, with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton batting behind Trout.
"I think these three guys second, third and fourth is something we hopefully ride out for a long time," Scioscia said. "It condenses some things and fills some holes. Everybody should be able to get their pitches. Everybody will protect the guy in front of him."
• The Astros and Angels have met on two occasions -- a three-game set in Houston in 2004 and a three-game set in Anaheim in '07. Both times the home team took two of three.
• Hitters on the Astros roster are hitting just .195 against Hanson with 18 strikeouts in 41 at-bats.