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Angels can't solve lefty Keuchel, fall to Astros

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- The All-Star break wasn't enough to cure the Angels of their ails against left-handed pitching. In their first game of the second half, the Angels generated only three baserunners against Dallas Keuchel, who flirted with a no-hitter in a 3-1 series-opening loss to the Astros on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

Keuchel allowed only a walk to David Fletcher through the first six innings before Justin Upton smoked a 101.8-mph line drive off the glove of a leaping Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the seventh. Official scorer Ed Munson ruled the play a single, breaking up Keuchel's no-hit bid.

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ANAHEIM -- The All-Star break wasn't enough to cure the Angels of their ails against left-handed pitching. In their first game of the second half, the Angels generated only three baserunners against Dallas Keuchel, who flirted with a no-hitter in a 3-1 series-opening loss to the Astros on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

Keuchel allowed only a walk to David Fletcher through the first six innings before Justin Upton smoked a 101.8-mph line drive off the glove of a leaping Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the seventh. Official scorer Ed Munson ruled the play a single, breaking up Keuchel's no-hit bid.

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"We were still losing at that point, so it was kind of bittersweet," Upton said. "I was hoping it would be the icebreaker for us to get something going."

Video: HOU@LAA: Upton ends no-hit bid with single in 7th

Upton's single prevented the Angels from being no-hit for the first time since Sept. 11, 1999, when Eric Milton accomplished the feat for the Twins.

The Angels produced their lone run against Keuchel in the eighth, when Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a single and scored on Jabari Blash's sacrifice fly to right field. Keuchel departed after allowing one run on two hits over 7 2/3 innings, extending his winning streak against the Angels to five games.

Video: HOU@LAA: Blash plates Kinsler with a sacrifice fly

The Angels (49-49), who slipped 10 games behind the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot in the American League, are now 9-19 against left-handed starters this season. They entered Friday batting only .224 against lefties, the second-lowest mark in the Majors.

"Unfortunately, it was a lot of what we saw against left-handed pitching before the break," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've got to get better. There's no doubt about that. We feel we will. Our guys have hit left-handed pitching throughout their careers, and some guys just aren't in sync."

Left-hander Tyler Skaggs took the loss after giving up three runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out one over six innings. Skaggs, who was pitching for the first time in eight days because of the All-Star break, gave up one run in each of the first three innings but didn't allow any subsequent damage.

"The first three definitely didn't go well, but I thought the last three went well," Skaggs said. "Didn't start the game the way I wanted to, but I thought I picked it up towards the end. I was throwing the ball a lot better."

Video: HOU@LAA: Skaggs strikes out Tucker with bases loaded

George Springer led off the game with a single to left field, but he was nearly being picked off at first base by catcher Martin Maldonado. Springer broke for second during an at-bat by Alex Bregman but then dove back to first base and was initially called out by first-base umpire Gabe Morales. The Astros challenged the call, and the ruling was overturned after replay showed that Springer managed to get his hand back on the bag ahead of Jefry Marte's tag.

Bregman followed with a walk, and Jose Altuve put the Astros on the board with an RBI single to center field. The Astros still had runners on first and second with no outs, but Skaggs extricated himself from the jam with the help of Ian Kinsler, who snagged a line drive off the bat of Yuli Gurriel and then flipped to Andrelton Simmons to double off Bregman at second. Evan Gattis then grounded out to end the inning.

Skaggs fell into more trouble in the second, when he surrendered three consecutive singles to Josh Reddick, Gonzalez and Max Stassi to load the bases with no outs. After striking out Kyle Tucker, Skaggs yielded an sacrifice fly to Springer that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.

In the third, Skaggs issued a two-out walk to Gattis, who promptly scored on Reddick's RBI triple down the first-base line. Skaggs settled in to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced and needed only four pitches to breeze through a 1-2-3 fifth inning, but he received no help from his offense, which was stifled by Keuchel.

"Some days you got it, some days you don't," Skaggs said. "Today I was out there battling. My back was against the wall, and I thought I did a good job of almost escaping it."

Keuchel opened his outing with three perfect innings before Fletcher drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and advanced to second on a groundout by Simmons. After Mike Trout popped out, Upton rifled a liner toward right field, but Gurriel made an outstanding diving catch to keep Keuchel's no-hit bid temporarily intact.

Video: HOU@LAA: Gurriel lays out for tremendous diving catch

"He was mixing it up," Upton said of Keuchel. "He used both sides of the plate with his fastball. Changed speeds. We just couldn't get anything elevated. We hit some balls hard, but we didn't get anything out of it."

SOUND SMART
Left-handed slugger Shohei Ohtani struck out in all three of his at-bats against Keuchel on Friday, dropping his batting average against lefties to .154 (6-for-39) on the season.

"Keuchel did a good job on him," Scioscia said. "I think he got the two-seamer running down under his swing a little bit. Obviously, that was a tough night for him."

UP NEXT
Right-hander Nick Tropeano (3-4, 4.83 ERA) will return from the disabled list and start against the Astros on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. He will be opposed by Houston ace Justin Verlander (9-5, 2.29 ERA). Tropeano has not pitched for the Angels since June 10 due to right shoulder inflammation. He is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three career starts against the Astros, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft before trading him to the Angels in exchange for Hank Conger in 2014.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels