HOUSTON -- At a time of year when a lot of pitchers on teams eliminated from the playoff chase are gearing down, Los Angeles Angels closer Ernesto Frieri ramped it up Sunday afternoon.
Frieri allowed a ninth-inning leadoff base hit in a 12-pitch showdown with Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez but got the next three outs to wrap up a two-inning save in support of starter Jerome Williams in Los Angeles' 2-1 win over Houston at Minute Maid Park.
Williams (8-10) limited the Astros to a run and five hits in seven innings and gave way in the eighth to reliever Dane De La Rosa, who allowed two baserunners before Frieri struck out Trevor Crowe and Brett Wallace to end the threat.
Astros starter Paul Clemens (4-5) took the hard-luck loss while holding the Angels to six hits and two runs in seven innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
With Frieri still in the game to pitch the ninth, Dominguez fouled off eight pitches before reaching on a base hit to right. But Frieri struck out Chris Carter, got Marc Krauss on a foul pop to third baseman Andrew Romine and struck out pinch hitter Brandon Laird to end the game.
Frieri's 34th save was a rare six-out gem, and he said the extra work was no problem.
"This time of the season your arm is 100 percent ready to go, and you just need to stay ready down there and whenever they call down to the bullpen asking for you, you've got to be ready mentally and physically," he said.
Even so, he said Dominguez gave him a good battle leading off the ninth.
"This game doesn't get easy when guys get to know you and know what kind of pitches you throw in different counts," he said. "They know I use my fastball a lot, and even when I threw good breaking balls down, he fouled them off. He (Dominguez) is a good hitter."
Los Angeles scored first as Mike Trout drew a two-out walk in the top of the first, becoming the first player in American League history to record 70 extra-base hits, 30 stolen bases and 100 walks in a season. He stole second, his 33rd steal of the season, and scored on a Josh Hamilton triple.
The Astros tied it in the second when Krauss smacked a 2-2 pitch into the lower deck in right field for his fourth homer of the season. It was a rare mistake by Williams, who entering the game with a 1-4 record in seven career starts against Houston.
"I think I probably threw three balls up in the zone -- two by design and one by accident, and the one by accident was a homer," Williams said. "I'm satisfied with it. I've got two more starts left, and I've got to build on it."
Clemens, who was making his first start since Sept. 2 and was scratched from a Sept. 8 start at Oakland because of a blister on his pitching hand, said he had to rely more on guile because his velocity remains below par.
"I'm happy with some of it, and there was some pitching selection that has got to get better," he said. "This game comes down to two things: executing your pitches and choosing the right pitch in the right situation. I just want to continue to get better at those things."
Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in the fifth, but the Angels ran themselves out of what could have been a bigger inning. Shortstop Erik Aybar singled, went to third on Hank Conger's single to right and scored on Romine's sacrifice fly to left. But Conger dawdled getting back to first, and shortstop Jonathan Villar took the cutoff throw from left fielder Kraus and fired to first baseman Carter to get the double play.
The Astros could not break through other than Kraus' homer, stranding seven baserunners, and are two losses away from a third consecutive 100-loss season. But they are 7-7 in September, and manager Bo Porter said he was encouraged by recent developments.
"We've been playing well in the month of September," he said. "We still have a ways to go the rest of the month, and our goal is to finish strong and we want to continue playing well."
NOTES: Astros rookie catcher Max Stassi, who is on the seven-day concussion disabled list, caught a bullpen session Sunday, one day after taking batting practice on the field for the first time since he suffered a concussion Aug. 21. ... Astros' players worked the ticket scanners and handed out promotional items. It also was Astros Dog Day as fans were invited to attend with their pets. ... Romine, who had the game-winning sacrifice fly, started in place of Luis Jiminez, who Saturday was hit by a pitch on his right thumb and also hurt his left thumb sliding into home. He said Sunday his thumbs felt a little better and that he expected to miss only a few days. ...The Angels recalled infielder Tommy Field from Triple-A Salt Lake just in case. ... RHP Dan De La Rosa, who pitched to two batters in the eighth, set a franchise record for rookies with his 70th appearance.