Wilson K's 10, Angels score late for sweep of Astros
Hamilton drives in go-ahead run with double in the eighth inning
HOUSTON -- The Angels may have found a formula this weekend to beat the Astros. Pitch well and wait for the Houston defense to implode.
A throwing error by Houston shortstop Jake Elmore on Josh Hamilton's double in the eighth inning ensured Howie Kendrick scored from first to break a tie game and Hamilton stumbled home moments later as the Angels prevailed, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
The win completed a perfect road trip for the Halos, who also swept Detroit during the week. It was the Angels' first undefeated road trip of at least six games since Sept. 3-8, 2002.
The sweep provided a measure of revenge after the Astros had won seven of the first 10 games against the Halos this season.
"Those guys have handed it to us," Kendrick said. "It definitely feels good to get some wins off them. Any time you win games in a row and series, that's building confidence. We've got that right now."
Lefty C.J. Wilson held Houston at bay, using the Astros' free-swinging approach to fool them with a bevy of breaking balls.
"That's the game plan against them," Wilson said. "They have a lot of guys swinging, probably getting a little antsy with that short porch in left field. 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."
That allowed Wilson to bounce back from a rough start in Detroit, as he struck out 10 and spread three hits over seven innings of one-run work.
"Throughout the course of the season, you're going to have ups and downs, good games and bad ones," he said. "That outing came down to two mistakes, a homer to [Miguel] Cabrera and a two-run single to [Victor] Martinez. Without those mistakes, I threw almost the same today."
During the series, Los Angeles starters combined to allow four runs over 20 1/3 innings. In 17 of the Angels' last 22 wins, Halos hurlers have allowed three runs or fewer.
"The whole road trip, we pitched well," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "For the last probably month, our starting pitching has come together and given us chances to win. It's given our bullpen a chance to form roles. They're pitching deep enough for us to establish that consistency in the bullpen."
Houston starter Lucas Harrell was up to the task against Wilson, efficiently moving through the Halos' lineup for seven innings of six-hit ball. Only Mark Trumbo touched him on the scoreboard, as the first baseman ripped a slicing liner beyond the right-field wall for a solo homer in the fourth inning.
Otherwise, the closest the Angels came to knocking him out was in the sixth, when Kendrick lined a fastball right back at Harrell's left shin to reach first with no outs. Harrell tumbled to the turf but was fine, and he navigated out of the threat with some help from Kendrick, who was caught trying to steal second.
It was just the second time in eight attempts this season Kendrick's been caught stealing, but a 3-for-4 day at the plate continued his All-Star-caliber first half.
After Harrell exited, Houston reliever Jose Cisnero came on, and Kendrick opened the eighth with a single to right.
With one out, Hamilton's third double of the series hit off the left-field wall and a well-executed relay likely would have had Kendrick at the plate. But Elmore's throw was well off line and bounced off the backstop, allowing an off-balance Hamilton to wobble home.
Though the play may have been close, Scioscia said it's the kind of aggressive baserunning that he wants to see more regularly.
"It was going to take a money throw," he said. "I think the timing was still on our side considering the tag. Howie had a good jump and was running well. [Third-base coach] Dino Ebel made the right call in waving him."
Hamilton has nine extra-base hits in 13 games against the Astros this year. In his last 16 games, he has 11 RBIs after tallying only 10 over the previous 50.
"The driving the ball to left-center on the double, hitting a ball hard to shortstop, that's great for Josh," Scioscia said. "No doubt there's a comfort level starting to form. Josh is important for our lineup's function and it's good to see him swing the bat better."
It was the third throwing error in two games for Elmore, and the fourth of the series for Houston shortstops.
"As soon as I let it go, I knew I cut it," Elmore said.
Ronny Cedeno's eighth-inning throwing error also plated an Angels run and broke a 1-1 tie during the Halos' victory on Friday.
An Angels throwing miscue provided Houston's only run of the game, as Alberto Callaspo caught a liner but was errant trying to catch Elmore off first base in the sixth. The error ushered Brandon Barnes home from third.
Closer Ernesto Frieri survived a leadoff single to record a scoreless ninth and earn his 21st save.
The win gave the Angels a 14-13 June record for their second winning month in a row. The Halos are within four games of .500 for the first time since May 31, when the Astros won the first of four straight in Anaheim. Houston still owns a 7-6 advantage in the season series.