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Angels bested by Verlander in finale vs. Astros

Cozart, Pujols break through vs. Houston righty; Tropeano struggles after fast start
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- The Angels fell short of a sweep of the Astros Wednesday afternoon, dropping a 5-2 decision under a closed roof at Minute Maid Park.

Both starting pitchers looked dominant early. Houston's Justin Verlander was perfect until the fifth, when Zack Cozart blooped a single into center. Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano matched Verlander into the fourth, retiring the first 11 batters he faced before walking Carlos Correa.

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HOUSTON -- The Angels fell short of a sweep of the Astros Wednesday afternoon, dropping a 5-2 decision under a closed roof at Minute Maid Park.

Both starting pitchers looked dominant early. Houston's Justin Verlander was perfect until the fifth, when Zack Cozart blooped a single into center. Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano matched Verlander into the fourth, retiring the first 11 batters he faced before walking Carlos Correa.

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Video: LAA@HOU: Tropeano fans Fisher to strike out the side

But then Tropeano ran into trouble. He followed the walk to Correa with another free pass to Josh Reddick, and then hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch. Alex Bregman cleared the bases with a double, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.

"In the fourth inning he gets two outs and just lost his release point," manager Mike Scioscia said. "You're pitching in a tight game and you know they've got some guys who can drive the ball. I just think he got a little too fine and maybe he lost his rhythm, lost his release point."

Video: LAA@HOU: Bregman clears bases with three-run double

Tropeano said he was trying to be "too fine" with his pitches.

"When you walk the bases loaded, that's a recipe for disaster," Tropeano said. "I fell behind Bregman, 2-0, and he put a good swing on a fastball. I think I threw too many balls after that fourth inning. After the fourth, my timing was a little off, my arm slot dropped a little bit. At that point, I was just battling."

Video: LAA@HOU: Scioscia, Tropeano on 5-2 loss to Astros

Tropeano may have felt the added pressure to have to pitch mistake-free, considering who was pitching on the other side.

The Angels are no strangers to Verlander. After he was traded from the Tigers to the Astros last Aug. 31, he beat the Halos twice, throwing 15 scoreless innings while allowing just two hits, one in each contest.

Wednesday's game began as a continuation of that cycle. Other than Cozart's hit, Verlander was perfect until the seventh.

"He was throwing the ball really well," Ian Kinsler said. "He was using his fastball really effectively and he had a great command with it. It makes it difficult."

In the seventh, Albert Pujols knocked a two-out solo homer to the left-field Crawford Boxes, and Cozart drove in a run with a double.

Video: LAA@HOU: Pujols lines a homer for 2,994th career hit

"[Verlander] was tough, needless to say," Scioscia said. "As the game went on, we got some better looks at him. I think we did a better job as the game went on. Albert got us going and got us back in the game at 4-2. Those [Astros relievers] just came and shut the door."

The loss ended the Angels' 11-game road winning streak, which had matched the 1988 squad for the longest in franchise history. The Halos hadn't lost away from home since Opening Day in Oakland.

"You win two of three against a division rival, that's obviously a good morale boost," Tropeano said. "Obviously, you want a sweep. We all want to win every game. We'll take this one, go on to the Yankees and go from there."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Pujols, the most successful opposing hitter in Astros history, logged his 64th career homer vs. the Astros. The hit marked the 2,994th of Pujols' career, inching him closer to tying Roberto Clemente, who had exactly 3,000 hits in his Hall of Fame career. More > 

Video: LAA@HOU: Statcast™ measures Pujols' 16-degree homer

HE SAID IT
"I think subconsciously, you know [Verlander] has pitched really well, but he's not really battling Verlander, he's battling the Houston lineup. I think you have to keep that perspective. You have to go out and pitch as well as you can and hopefully give your team a chance to win the game. We did that the first couple outings here. We didn't get it quite done this afternoon." -- Scioscia, on Tropeano

Video: LAA@HOU: Scioscia on Tropeano's outing in 5-2 loss

UP NEXT
After a day off Thursday, the Angels return home to Anaheim to begin a six-game homestand, starting with a three-game set with the Yankees. Pujols will have a chance to log the 3,000-hit milestone in front of his hometown fans. Friday's starting pitcher will feature lefty Andrew Heaney (0-1, 9.64), who will make his first start vs. the Yanks since 2015. Dating back to '05, the Angels are 31-19 against the Yankees at Angel Stadium. New York will counter with Luis Severino (4-1, 2.32). First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. PT.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels