Astros can’t hold lead, fall to Angels 5-4


It looked like the Astros were on their way to a fourth straight win Saturday night but they couldn’t quite shut the door on Albert Pujols and the Angels. The game started out as a pitcher’s duel between Lucas Harrell and Garrett Richards. Neither team managed to score until Chris Carter‘s 2-run blast in the fourth inning gave the Astros the lead.

Josh Hamilton cut the deficit in half with a solo shot with two outs in the sixth and Mark Trumbo followed with a single that chased Harrell from the game. Hector Ambriz came in and got out of the inning with no further damage and the Astros tacked on two more runs in the top of  the seventh. Marwin Gonzalez plated J.D. Martinez with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to make it a 4-1 game.

Ambriz stayed in to pitch out of more trouble in the seventh but Rhiner Cruz wasn’t so lucky in the eighth. A misplay in rightfield by Martinez helped the Angels close the gap to 4-3 before Howie Kendrick‘s base running mistake ended the inning. The Astros couldn’t get anything going against reliever Michael Roth, who was making his big league debut and Jose Veras went to the mound in the bottom of the ninth trying to protect a 1-run lead.

The slumping Angels celebrated like they had just won a playoff game when Pujols delivered his walkoff hit. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Veras failed to deliver in his first save opportunity as a member of the Astros. Issuing a one-out walk to light-hitting Luis Jimenez would eventually come back to haunt the Astros closer. After a 2-out single by Mike Trout that barely eluded third-baseman Matt Dominguez, Pujols stroked a double into the leftfield corner to give Los Angeles the walkoff win.

It was a tough loss to stomach after the Astros had never trailed during the game. Lucas Harrell pitched well but his inability to get deeper into the game forced Bo Porter to turn to his not-so-reliable bullpen earlier than he would have preferred. The Astros fought hard but in the end proved that they aren’t good enough to overcome their mistakes.

Brett Wallace‘s struggles at the plate continued. The Astros first-sacker went 0 for 3 but managed to draw a walk and, for the first time all season, didn’t strike out — not even once! Philip Humber pitches for the Astros in tomorrow’s rubber game of the series. Lefty C.J. Wilson takes the mound for the Angels in a 2:35 CDT start.