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Angels' slide continues despite Pena's effort

Halos stifled again by lefty starter en route to 6th straight loss
August 26, 2018

ANAHEIM -- The Angels fell to yet another left-handed pitcher on Sunday afternoon, mustering only two hits against rookie Framber Valdez in a 3-1 loss to the Astros that secured a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium and extended the club's losing streak to a season-high-matching six games.Valdez, who filled in

ANAHEIM -- The Angels fell to yet another left-handed pitcher on Sunday afternoon, mustering only two hits against rookie Framber Valdez in a 3-1 loss to the Astros that secured a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium and extended the club's losing streak to a season-high-matching six games.
Valdez, who filled in for the injured Lance McCullers in the Astros' rotation, limited the Angels to one run over five innings in his first MLB start and second appearance for Houston. The Angels are now 16-24 in games started by left-handers this season.
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"He's got a good arm," manager Mike Scioscia said of Valdez after the Players' Weekend finale. "He's got a lot of movement. He's sneaky. He's got a plus fastball when he wants it. He was cutting the ball, sinking it. He has a good curveball, too. I think as the game went on, we got better looks at him, but we obviously didn't pressure him as much as we needed to."
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The Angels (63-68) produced only four singles Sunday and have been outscored, 34-14, over their six-game skid. They trailed during the entire series against the Astros and have not led a game since Aug. 19 at Texas, dropping a season-high five games below .500.
One of the few bright spots for the Angels came courtesy of right-hander Felix Pena (La Befla), who gave up three runs over six innings to lower his ERA to 3.41 over his last five starts. Pena, a converted reliever, threw a career-high 97 pitches while walking two and striking out five.
"I'm working hard every day to get stronger, and I felt very comfortable throwing that many pitches," Pena said in Spanish. "After I was done, I asked the pitching coach how many pitches I had thrown because I didn't feel tired or anything."

Pena has had trouble navigating the first inning since moving into the Angels' rotation and entered Sunday with a 12.19 ERA in 11 opening frames this season. In an attempt to overcome those early woes, Pena decided to tweak his pregame routine. After warming up as usual in the bullpen, Pena sat for a little bit to simulate the first inning, which helped him prepare to enter the game.
The adjustment worked. Once Pena took the mound against the Astros, he needed only 12 pitches to retire the side in a clean first inning. While he cleared that hurdle, Pena couldn't avoid trouble in the third after allowing the Astros to load the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.
Carlos Correa (I Am Groot) opened the scoring with a two-out, two-run single to center field, and Marwin Gonzalez (MarGo) followed with an RBI single to right field to make it 3-0.
"I fell behind in the count," Pena said. "When you fall behind in the count, the hitter is always going to have the advantage. I missed on a few pitches, including the high fastball to Correa. I paid for that."
Still, Pena capped his outing with three scoreless innings, retiring 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
"I thought Felix made some adjustments," Scioscia said. "He got his pitch count up there, maintained his stuff and gave us a chance to win. I thought Felix did a good job."
The Angels generated their lone run of the afternoon in the fifth inning after Jefry Marte (El Bley) walked, advanced to second on an infield single by Taylor Ward and later scored on a groundout from Kole Calhoun (Koleman).

Down by two in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels had a chance to rally after Roberto Osuna hit Francisco Arcia (Frankie) to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs. Scioscia opted to send up Shohei Ohtani (Showtime) to pinch-hit for Marte, but Ohtani struck out swinging on a slider to end the game.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
It looked like Jose Altuve (Tuve) had stolen his team-leading 16th base of the season against Angels reliever Richard Parker (B-Easy) and catcher Rene Rivera (Moncho) in the eighth inning, but the Angels challenged the safe call at second. The call was overturned, erasing a runner in scoring position with the second out of the frame.

UP NEXT
The Angels will host the Rockies for a two-game Interleague set at Angel Stadium beginning Monday at 7:07 p.m. PT. Right-handers Odrisamer Despaigne (2-2, 6.35 ERA) and Jon Gray (10-7, 4.67) will face off in the series opener. Despaigne is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA in three career appearances against Colorado. His three wins against the Rockies are his most against any opponent.

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