ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels spent 25 minutes in a closed-door team meeting after losing four straight home games to the club with the AL's worst record.
Although the Angels aired out their problems, they might need a bit longer to clear the stench from this unpleasant slide in a rough season.
Chris Carter homered, Erik Bedard pitched seven strong innings for his first win of the year, and the last-place Houston Astros completed a four-game sweep of the Angels with a 2-1 victory Monday night.
"We've definitely hit a bump in the road, no doubt about it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
With just four baserunners, the Astros still held off Los Angeles, which lost a game despite allowing three hits or fewer for only the fifth time in the last decade. The Angels certainly couldn't blame Joe Blanton, who picked up his AL-worst ninth loss despite matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and yielding just three hits in eight outstanding innings.
Mike Trout drove in the only run for the foundering Angels, who have lost six of eight to erase all momentum from their eight-game winning streak last month. Los Angeles slid back to eight games below .500 with four consecutive losses to the Astros, dropping its record against the rest of the AL West to 9-19.
"To play the way we did in this series is definitely something we need to address," Scioscia said. "I just wanted to really keep the focus and the approach where it needs to be. Obviously, we didn't play well these four games. We're a better team, and we're going to get there. It seems like these four games, a switch just flipped off. We need to get back into that mindset we had last week, when we were building momentum and confidence."
Carter's fifth-inning homer was the Astros' first hit off Blanton (1-9), who kept mowing down the Astros in his first start with 10 strikeouts in nearly four years. Blanton still matched Philadelphia's Cole Hamels for the major league lead in losses.
"They executed when they needed to, and we didn't," Blanton said. "They pitched well. Anytime somebody beats you four in a row, you've got to give them credit. It's not all a matter of you playing bad."
Brandon Barnes drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning as the Astros finished their unblemished six-game trip with their seventh win over the big-money Angels in 10 meetings this season. The Astros completed their longest perfect road trip since 1999.
"Everybody takes pride in winning and playing as a team, and guys are playing great right now," said Carter, who hit his fifth homer against the Angels this season.
The Astros barely hung on, with Jose Veras striking out pinch-hitter Hank Conger with two runners on for his 11th save.
"I feel like we're playing really good baseball," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "You're starting to see we're coming together. I said it last month: We're going to hit our stride, and we're going to start winning some of those games we were losing."
Albert Pujols went 0 for 4, and Barnes dived to catch his sinking drive to center with Trout on base to end the eighth.
"Anything can happen in this game, so you can't take the other team for granted," Pujols said. "They have a lot of players who want to prove that they belong up here. We had our pitching matchups set up, and obviously things didn't go our way."
Veras then held on for his third save in the four-game series, giving up Alberto Callaspo's two-out double and walking pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton before striking out Conger looking.
Hamilton was held out of the Angels' starting lineup to give some rest to the slumping $125 million outfielder. Hamilton missed two games last week with back spasms, but the 2010 AL MVP was 2 for 15 on the homestand and is batting .169 against left-handers this season.
Blanton struck out six of the Astros' first nine batters. Houston's only baserunner in the first 4 2-3 innings reached on Callaspo's throwing error in the third, but Chris Iannetta picked Matt Dominguez off second base moments later.
The Angels took the lead in the third when J.B. Shuck doubled down the right-field line, advanced on Erick Aybar's single and scored on Trout's sacrifice fly.
Blanton was firmly in control until Carter's homer, striking out the first two batters he faced in the fifth to surpass his season high. But Carter lined a pitch into the bullpens beyond the left-field fence for his 12th homer of the season.
Houston went ahead in the sixth when Dominguez doubled, advanced on a bunt and scored on Barnes' sac fly.
NOTES: Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez returned after missing four games with a strained hamstring. ... Blanton matched his career-best 11 strikeouts on May 26, 2009, while pitching for Philadelphia against the Marlins. ... OF Peter Bourjos had a triple in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Inland Empire. Out since April 29 with an injured hamstring, the center fielder is expected to rejoin the Angels this week, bumping Trout back to left field.
|< Prev||Next >|