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Astros lineup falters against dominant Skaggs

Keuchel not at his best, allows four earned runs over five innings

HOUSTON -- The Astros honored all-time greats Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt before Saturday night's game at Minute Maid Park. They could have used Berkman's bat in the 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels

The Astros managed only four hits and one unearned run off Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs over eight innings. Three of Houston's hits were infield singles.

"It was just one of those nights," said L.J. Hoes, who delivered the only ball hit safely to the outfield by the Astros to lead off the fifth inning. He never made it past second base.

"It's early in the season. You can't get too high or get too low. We know what we're capable of. Once everything starts clicking, we'll be on a roll and be able to win some games."

Playing without leadoff man Dexter Fowler (stomach virus) and catcher Jason Castro (injured foot) for the second day in a row, the Astros scored only one run for the second game in a row.

Manager Bo Porter said that Fowler was released from Methodist Hospital Saturday night and expected him to be at the ballpark Sunday.

"They're two of our better hitters," Porter said. "At the same time, the guys who are in there, you expect them to get it done."

Nobody did the job offensively for Houston against the Angels left-hander.

"I think everything kind of clicked tonight," Skaggs said. "I couldn't ask for a better first outing."

Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, also a left-hander, pitched well through four innings.

"I felt me and Tyler were duking it out," Keuchel said of the pitching matchup. "I had more traffic on the bases than he did."

After the first four innings, things went downhill for Keuchel.

Collin Cowgill led off the Angels' fifth with a double. Keuchel then struck out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. But he gave up an RBI single to David Freese and a two run-homer to Josh Hamilton. That put the Angels on top, 4-1.

"It's just frustrating when I punch out two of the game's better hitters, then elevated a breaking ball," Keuchel said. "Give credit to Josh. I felt good, lefty on lefty. Hamilton got me. It was a pitch I had great success against him last year. He's a better player this year.

"This is the big leagues and that's what happens. If you're not on your game every pitch, that can happen. That kind of took the wind out of our sails in the fifth."

The Astros did not get a hit in the last four innings.

"Offensively, we definitely need to get something going and score more runs," Porter said.

Skaggs made the Astros' task extremely difficult.

"He really had his breaking ball going and we helped him a little bit by expanding the zone," Porter said. "He did attack the strike zone with his fastball and got us to chase [his curveball]."

Including Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Yankees, Houston has scored four runs over the last three games. The only game the Astros have scored more three runs was a 6-2 win over New York in the opener.

Keuchel left after five innings, giving up eight hits, the four earned runs, striking out five and walking two.

"This is the best I've felt so far," he said. "My body was strong and well. I think the two days' rest [after pitching an exhibition game last Sunday] did me well. Working out of traffic the first few innings took a lot out of me. I've been doing a little better job longevity wise."

Porter was pleased overall with Keuchel.

"It was basically two pitches he left up," Porter said. "I felt like he did a good job."

Jose Altuve singled in the first inning, stole second and scored on a line drive by Jesus Guzman that Angels third baseman John McDonald couldn't handle for Houston's only run. It was scored an error.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to
Read More: Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel