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LAA@HOU: Skaggs fans five over eight in Angels debut

The Angels need all the help they can get, offensively, these days, and that's part of the reason why Monday's win seemed so uplifting.

Erick Aybar entered the game with a .175 batting average, then focused on staying upright in his stance and notched his first three-hit game of the season while hitting a two-out, game-tying single in the eighth inning. Raul Ibanez entered with a .148/.212/.311 slash line, then hit a pinch-hit three-run double later that inning to lead his team to a 4-2 victory.

Production from those two, for a lineup that will be without Kole Calhoun (sprained right ankle) and Josh Hamilton (left thumb surgery) until at least mid-May, will be crucial.

The hope is that they build on it.

"We need both of those guys, obviously," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It looked like they had a little better feel out there in the batter's box."

Ibanez figures to start in left field on Tuesday, in the second of a three-game series that will see Angels 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs match up against Nationals 25-year-old righty Taylor Jordan.

"That's definitely something that's helpful; it's good, positive feedback, on a personal level, when you can contribute to the team," said Ibanez. "Any time that you help pick your teammates up and help your team to victory, it's something you can build on and something positive, for sure."

Angels: Better April, but it's all relative
The Angels still haven't topped .500 this season, but they're at least off to a better start. Monday's 4-2, come-from-behind victory at Nationals Park was their ninth win of the season, tying their output for all of April 2013 with eight games still remaining in the season's first month.

The Angels (9-10) haven't necessarily shot themselves in the foot, like they did while sporting the fourth-worst April winning percentage in 2012-13, and they're at the very least treading water.

"I don't think we're at where we want to be, but we're playing better ball this year than we have in the past," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. "There are some games where we should've won, and some games that we've pitched well and played good defense."

Nationals: Jordan's last start an ugly one
In his last start on Thursday, Jordan lost to the Cardinals after allowing seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings -- giving him 11 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings this season.

What made this loss even worse was that the Nationals made four errors, two of them by shortstop Ian Desmond. And that doesn't account for the misplays that were ruled hits. In the first inning, Jordan misplayed a ball off the bat of Kolten Wong that was ruled a hit. Jordan had a tough time getting the ball out of his glove and Wong beat Jordan's throw to first.

Worth noting
• The Angels and Nationals are meeting in a series for the first time since 2011, when the Angels swept them in Southern California. The last time the Angels were in Washington, they won two of three.

• Entering Monday, Nats pitchers led the Majors in strikeouts (189) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.03). The last time a team from D.C. paced the Majors in strikeouts was 1919, when the Senators fanned 536. Comments