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Harrell, Williams struggle in loss to Angels

While pitchers are unable to contain Halos, offense slowed by Richards

HOUSTON -- The 2014 Houston Astros reverted to their 2013 form Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The previously winless Angels pounded Houston starter Lucas Harrell for five runs in the first three innings en route to an 11-1 win at Minute Maid Park.

"I was leaving the ball over the plate, and with a lineup like that, with so many good hitters, you can't do that," Harrell said. "You have to be better than that. There's just no letup [in their lineup]. You have to execute your pitches every time. I left the ball over the plate and they hit it hard."

Harrell left the game after three innings, allowing seven hits and five earned runs. Last year he struggled through a 6-17 record with a 5.86 ERA, but won a spot in the Houston rotation in Spring Training.

"It was a lack of fastball command," Houston manager Bo Porter said of Harrell. "When you fall behind, you start throwing the ball over the plate. They're a good fastball-hitting team."

The game turned into batting practice, with the Angels adding three more runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh.

"We were just talking about it in there," said Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, who had two singles, a homer and a walk. "As competitors, five out of eight days, we're capable of doing something like that. We know the talent's there. We don't have to try to do it every day. But you have good at-bats and it becomes contagious. That's sort of the mentality we have."

It was just the wrong day for the Astros, who slipped to 2-2 after winning the first two games of the season against the New York Yankees.

"On a whole my stuff was good," Harrell insisted. "I just didn't locate. I got myself in jams in the first two innings (including a 376-foot home run by Mike Trout) and worked my way out of it. I thought I made some pretty good pitches. It just caught up with me in the third inning. I didn't make the pitches I needed to. They hit the back-to-back doubles (by Howie Kendrick and Chris Iannetta) and scored the three runs. That was pretty much the ball game."

It was the type of game the losing team wants to forget right away.

"We didn't play good ball," Porter said. "The best thing about is its only one game. Tomorrow we get to show up and start a new one."

Harrell was more than willing to put the game behind him.

"It's over with and on to the next start," he said. "I'll get better for my next start. I threw some good off-speed pitches. My starting point was a little bit low, so they ended up in the dirt. I felt at times in the first and second inning I was good."

The Astros did receive a good effort from reliever Anthony Bass, making his Astros debut after being acquired in the offseason from San Diego.

The game was long gone by the time Bass walked in, but he threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit.

"To get out there for the first time, I got my feet wet, got the jitters put away," Bass said. "You just go out there and get ahead of guys. Make them hit my pitch. I was more anxious to get out there than nervous. It's tough to pitch when things are out of hand. You have to focus and treat it like a zero-zero ballgame.

"All my pitches were working, fastball, changeup, slider. I was pretty fresh, so I felt pretty good. The changeup has come a long way. That lineup is pretty tough. A lot of big bats were out by the time I came in, which I kind of figured."

The Astros played without center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was hitting .500 but missed the game with a stomach virus, and catcher Jason Castro, sidelined by a foot injury.

"We need to get him back," veteran catcher Carlos Corporan said of Fowler. "You're going to miss a guy who is so hot, swinging the bat so well. He brings so much energy to the game."

Porter was also encouraged by the plate appearances of Chris Carter, who reached base three out of four times with a double and two walks.

The walks alone were an improvement for Carter, who set an Astros club record last year with 212 strikeouts.

"He's better at managing his at-bats and pitch selection," Porter said. "It was good to see him lay off some pitches and draw some walks. He was more locked in. I was happy to see him turn on the fastball and hit the double. When he gets going, he can carry our ballclub."

Gene Duffey is a contributor to
Read More: Houston Astros, Lucas Harrell, Jerome Williams