Harrell matches Wilson, but Astros fall to Halos late
Righty allows one run before 'pen, defense let Angels take lead
HOUSTON -- It was a good old-fashioned pitchers' duel on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park between the Astros' Lucas Harrell and the Angels' C.J. Wilson. But it was a two-run eighth inning off Houston reliever Jose Cisnero that decided it for the Halos, who completed a three-game sweep with a 3-1 win in front of 22,361.
Cisnero (2-1) came on in relief of Harrell to start the eighth inning with the game tied, 1-1. He was greeted with a single by Howie Kendrick, who scored the go-ahead run on a one-out double by Josh Hamilton.
But Hamilton was allowed to circle the bases on the play when the relay throw from Astros shortstop Jake Elmore drifted well up the first-base side of home plate and Hamilton never broke stride in making it a 3-1 game.
"Accuracy has always been a big part of my game," Elmore said. "And then the first couple of games here I've had some errant throws."
Astros manager Bo Porter said he felt that in making the cutoff, Elmore had his back to the infield and didn't have his feet in proper position to make an accurate throw home.
"It's unfortunate," Porter said. "Two of the most important fundamentals in baseball is throwing and catching. If you don't throw and you don't catch it, you give teams extra bases or put extra men on base, and the odds are at some point those guys are going to score.
"We have to do a better job of protecting the baseball."
Elmore said he thought the ball just got away from him on the throw home.
"As soon as I let it go I knew," Elmore said. "For sure, I cut it."
Elmore was making just his third start of the season at shortstop.
"It's definitely not a good first impression," he said. "But it's over now, water under the bridge and we'll move on tomorrow."
Elmore collected two of the Astros' five hits, both singles.
Mark Trumbo broke the ice for the Halos with a one-out solo shot -- his 18th home run of the season -- off Harrell in the fourth inning.
"I was wanting to go a little bit further away and I got it a little bit on the plate," Harrell said of the pitch that Trumbo belted. "He's a good hitter, and when you don't get the ball down to a guy like that, he's going to hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Harrell took a line drive to the left shin off the bat of Kendrick to lead of the sixth inning but remained in the game.
"It was one of those things where it stings a little bit but it'll be alright," Harrell said. "After the initial contact it was one of those things where [the pain] kind of faded away and then you've got to go back to making pitches.
"I think because I moved my leg back just a little bit and it was locked down is why it didn't get me as well as it could have. It still got me pretty good. It's still pretty sore."
Though he did not figure in the decision, Harrell returned to form by going seven innings, allowing six hits and one run. He tied his season high with seven strikeouts and walked just two.
It was Harrell's eighth quality start of the season and 10th start in which he allowed one earned run or fewer, which ranks tied for first in the American League with Seattle's Felix Hernandez.
"I was hitting my spots, fastballs away, and then getting guys out late," Harrell said of his performance.
Porter said he couldn't have asked for anything more.
"I thought today his stuff was probably as good as it's been all year," Porter said.
The Astros went to work in the sixth inning on Wilson (8-5), who limited Houston to a Brandon Barnes single while striking out seven and walking two to that point.
Barnes opened the inning with his second single. He then swiped his seventh base of the season before Elmore beat out a bunt, putting runners on the corners.
Jose Altuve lined out to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who in an attempt to double off Elmore at first, threw low across the diamond and past Trumbo, allowing Barnes to score and tie the game at 1.
Wilson went seven innings, giving up just three hits and three walks. He struck out 10 batters, marking the third time this season he has struck out 10 or more in a game and the 12th time in his career.
"They have a lot of guys swinging, probably getting a little antsy with that short porch in left," Wilson said. "That can be a really bad combination if you throw into their strengths. If you use their aggressiveness against them, you can keep them off balance with softer stuff."