HOUSTON -- The Angels' series finale in Houston on Sunday probably wasn't intended to be a "bullpen game," but after starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs lasted just 2 1/3 innings, the contest ended up in the hands of the relievers.The outcome was better than in previous days. Though the Angels lost,
HOUSTON -- The Angels' series finale in Houston on Sunday probably wasn't intended to be a "bullpen game," but after starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs lasted just 2 1/3 innings, the contest ended up in the hands of the relievers.
The outcome was better than in previous days. Though the Angels lost, 6-2, the day wasn't without small victories: They ended their club-record streak of allowing 10 or more runs at four games, and they held the Astros somewhat in check after the first inning, avoiding the late-game meltdowns that had plagued them the night before.
"We've used more bullpen innings than anybody, with the exception of Tampa Bay," manager Mike Scioscia said with a slight chuckle, referring to the Rays use of an "opener" instead of a starter. "There's a lot of pitches we've had to throw, and for the most part, they've kept us in games and done a good job."
Skaggs, who said he was on a pitch count of 65, lasted 2 1/3 innings, totaling 54 pitches. He gave up three runs in the first, including a two-run homer by Yuli Gurriel that came on a 1-2 curveball.
"I wanted to bounce it," Skaggs said. "I did that about three times today -- I threw a few curveballs that I wanted to bounce, and I didn't. It's just frustrating."
Seven Angels pitchers absorbed the final 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. They contained many of the Astros' most dangerous hitters, including Jose Altuve, who was limited to a first-inning leadoff walk and an infield hit in the eighth. Altuve grounded out in the fourth while facing Cam Bedrosian and hit into a double play to end the sixth against William McGuire.
Through their six-game road trip, Angels relievers have accounted for 29 innings.
"Our bullpen, we have a starter that's only gone three or four innings almost every time for the past seven days," Skaggs said. "Luckily, it's September, our bullpen is deep, but at the same time, it's just frustrating."
Michael Trout was given a routine day off, and the Angels were predictably quiet offensively, managing two runs on four hits against four Houston pitchers. The Angels had the majority of their at-bats against lefty Framber Valdez, who was called upon in the second inning following Charlie Morton's exit with shoulder discomfort. Valdez struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball.
After the Angels opened the scoring when Justin Upton scored on a wild pitch in the first inning, they had to wait until the sixth to add to their tally. Pinch-hitting for catcher Francisco Arcia in the sixth, Jose Briceno connected for a solo homer -- his third of the season -- for Los Angeles' only run off Valdez.
The Angels ended the road portion of the 2018 schedule at 38-43.
Andrelton Simmons left the game in the seventh after fielding an Evan Gattis ground ball and landing awkwardly on his knees while making a late throw. At first, Simmons seemed to be OK after walking around a bit, but as Scioscia was making a pitching change on the mound, the shortstop walked off the field. He was replaced by Kaleb Cowart, who moved over from third base, where Taylor Ward took over.
"It doesn't feel horrible," Simmons said. "It doesn't feel great, but it doesn't necessarily feel like there's something major going on. I just have to wait until tomorrow to see if the soreness goes away. "
Briceno's pinch-hit homer was the fourth by an Angels player this season and the third by an Angels rookie. Shohei Ohtani has two pinch-hit homers. The combined totals mark the most pinch-hit homers by Angels rookies in a single season in franchise history. In five pinch-hit plate appearances this year, Briceno is 3-for-4 with a walk.
HE SAID IT
"I don't think it's running out of gas. There's a lot of youth on the field, there's a lot of youth in our bullpen. There's going to be growing pains. I think the guys still have their stuff. We went through that one week where we were getting at least to a certain point of games with our starters, and we were winning games. That evaporated this week. It was tough." -- Scioscia, asked if the Angels' pitching staff has hit a wall
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the first inning, Upton scored from second on Morton's wild pitch, which had bounced on top of the ledge behind home plate and was out of catcher Martin Maldonado's sightline. Maldonado fired a throw to Morton, but Upton's foot touched home plate a hair before Morton's tag. Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged the call, but it was upheld after a one minute, 25 second review.
The Angels will return to Anaheim for their final homestand of the season, which starts on Monday with a divisional matchup with the Rangers at 7:07 p.m. PT. Right-hander Felix Pena will make his second start against the Rangers this month, seeking similar results as the last time, when he threw six shutout innings for a win on Sept. 12. The Rangers will counter with right-hander Adrian Sampson (0-2, 4.09 ERA).
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.