Launching Pad: Astros will try to avoid sweep against Halladay

What to expect in the major leagues today:

Roy-day in Houston

The defending NL champion Phillies have come out swinging this season, ranking at or near the top in most offensive categories. Conversely, the Astros have struggled to generate offense, although they scored six Saturday night.

This afternoon, the Astros will turn to ace Roy Oswalt to try to silence the Phillies’ bats, but things won’t get any easier for Houston’s hitters. Snapping out of a season-long funk is tough enough, but the odds get even steeper when facing Roy Halladay.

Upside down in the AL West

The upstart A’s are in first place, while the Angels and Mariners are battling to stay out of the cellar. It’s early, but what is most alarming about Los Angeles’ poor start is that it has been at home. Just don’t push the panic button yet. After all, the Angels tied for the majors’ best road record (48-33) last season. And after winning their season opener in 2009, they didn’t move back above .500 until May 9. Still, L.A. could use a strong start from Joe Saunders against Oakland this afternoon.

A family divided

For parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, third baseman Andy LaRoche and first baseman Adam LaRoche both were Pirates. However, Adam was dealt to the Red Sox last July, then shipped to the Braves and then signed with the Diamondbacks in the offseason. Andy remains in Pittsburgh, though he will be in Arizona this afternoon as the Pirates and Diamondbacks wrap up their three-game series.

Neither LaRoche is off to a rousing start this season, but their teams have shown signs of hope after disappointing 2009 campaigns (both the Pirates and Diamondbacks finished in last place in their respective divisions).

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

What to expect in the major leagues today:

Roy-day in Houston

The defending NL champion Phillies have come out swinging this season, ranking at or near the top in most offensive categories. Conversely, the Astros have struggled to generate offense, although they scored six Saturday night.

This afternoon, the Astros will turn to ace Roy Oswalt to try to silence the Phillies’ bats, but things won’t get any easier for Houston’s hitters. Snapping out of a season-long funk is tough enough, but the odds get even steeper when facing Roy Halladay.

Upside down in the AL West

The upstart A’s are in first place, while the Angels and Mariners are battling to stay out of the cellar. It’s early, but what is most alarming about Los Angeles’ poor start is that it has been at home. Just don’t push the panic button yet. After all, the Angels tied for the majors’ best road record (48-33) last season. And after winning their season opener in 2009, they didn’t move back above .500 until May 9. Still, L.A. could use a strong start from Joe Saunders against Oakland this afternoon.

A family divided

For parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, third baseman Andy LaRoche and first baseman Adam LaRoche both were Pirates. However, Adam was dealt to the Red Sox last July, then shipped to the Braves and then signed with the Diamondbacks in the offseason. Andy remains in Pittsburgh, though he will be in Arizona this afternoon as the Pirates and Diamondbacks wrap up their three-game series.

Neither LaRoche is off to a rousing start this season, but their teams have shown signs of hope after disappointing 2009 campaigns (both the Pirates and Diamondbacks finished in last place in their respective divisions).

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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