HOUSTON -- The Angels relocated four hours south of Arlington, where their all-Texas road trip started, but a change of scenery didn't do much to alter the results on the field.
One-run losses have been a theme. They had three of them during a four-game set with the Rangers, and they tacked another one on in the opener in Houston, dropping a 5-4 decision Friday night at Minute Maid Park despite a good performance from their starting pitcher and a four-hit night from one of their veteran outfielders.
"Right now, we're playing good enough to just lose," manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's just what it is. The three walk-offs in Arlington and lose by one tonight. We're playing just good enough to lose."
The Angels had ample scoring opportunities throughout the game, especially while facing former American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, who allowed 10 hits, but still managed to keep the damage to a minimum. Kole Calhoun ("Koleski") was the one breakthrough star, logging three of his career-high-tying four hits against Greinke, falling a triple short of the cycle while almost single-handedly giving his team a chance to pull ahead.
Calhoun logged singles in the second and sixth innings and a double in the fourth -- all off Greinke -- before launching a 411-foot homer to right off reliever Hector Rondon in the eighth, which brought the Angels to within a run of tying the game.
But Rondon retired three straight after the home run, and Roberto Osuna closed out the one-run win with a perfect ninth.
"It's tough," Calhoun said. "It's kind of the game. We know what kind of team's over there. Great offensive team and obviously a great pitching team. These games are going to be a battle. Hopefully you get a lead and keep it late. We just can never really get that lead late. With the arms they have in their bullpen, it's going to be tough."
For a team that is starting to look toward 2020, however, this wasn't a totally futile effort. The two players who comprised the Angels' starting pitcher-catcher battery performed admirably, and if they were looking to make an impression on the front office, this game may stand out among the others.
Suarez settles in
José Suarez ("Ranciss") returned to Triple-A Salt Lake only a few days ago, but the Angels called him back up once the team decided Griffin Canning's season was over, mostly for precautionary reasons.
Suarez took Canning's spot in the rotation and pitched the opener in Houston with little time to prepare.
"I didn’t know I was coming back that fast," Suarez said through an interpreter. "It's unfortunate what happened to Canning. But when I was in Triple-A, I was working on my glove. I came up. I have to come up here and perform."
He did. Over a 92-pitch outing, Suarez allowed three runs across 4 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw almost as many changeups (33) as fastballs (41).
"He did a good job," Ausmus said. "His pitch count got up a little bit, but he did a nice job pitching in and out. He used all his pitches, his changeup was good, especially early. Overall, I thought it was a good outing. Really good."
With Canning sidelined the rest of the season and rosters expanding in another week, it's likely Suarez will not have to go back to Salt Lake again this year. The lefty acknowledged finding comfort in knowing he can settle in a bit, without the uncertainty that has followed him at times this season.
"I feel more comfortable knowing that I'll be up here," Suarez said. "So I am able to work up here and be with the guys I have around me."
Busy night behind the plate
The other young player whose performance likely left an impression on the Angels is catcher Anthony Bemboom ("Boomer"), who threw out consecutive would-be basestealers to help hold the Astros scoreless in the sixth.
Abraham Toro reached on an infield single and stole second, but a replay challenge worked to the Angels' advantage when the video showed Toro's foot barely coming off the bag after David Fletcher put an initial tag on him.
The next caught-stealing was a no-doubter. Bemboom made a perfect throw to Andrelton Simmons to erase Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, marking the second out. The inning was over minutes later when Josh Reddick grounded out.
"Obviously, this lineup's tough when they've got a lot of guys that can run," Bemboom said. "I think it's more just being aware of who can run and at what time, and just kind of preparing ourselves before the game, too. We went over that. Just being ready for a situation like that was the biggest thing, just kind of anticipating that situation."
Bemboom's time with the Angels may be limited, only because catcher Kevan Smith is nearing activation from the injured list. But if he is optioned out, Bemboom will likely be back when rosters expand Sept. 1, which will give him more time to leave an impression as the team plans for 2020.
Bemboom appears up for the task.
"Obviously, our goal is to be in those big situations and succeed," he said. "I think being in this atmosphere helps us prepare for that down the road. I'm just doing everything I can."