Last-place Astros complete 4-game sweep of Angels

AP - Sports
Last-place Astros complete 4-game sweep of Angels
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Home plate umpire Dan Bellino watches as Houston Astros' Matt Dominguez scores on a Brandon Barnes sacrifice …

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Just when the Houston Astros figured everybody in baseball had pretty much forgotten about them, they've started to pull off some attention-grabbing feats.

After a perfect road trip, the low-budget club with the AL's worst record is heading home with the majors' longest active winning streak.

Chris Carter homered, Erik Bedard pitched seven strong innings for his first victory of the season, and the last-place Astros completed a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Brandon Barnes drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning as the Astros finished their unblemished six-game trip with their seventh win over the big-money Angels in 10 meetings this season. The Astros completed their longest perfect road trip since 1999 despite managing only three hits and four baserunners - and one was picked off.

''Everybody takes pride in winning and playing as a team, and guys are playing great right now,'' said Carter, who hit his fifth homer against the Angels already this season. ''It's just about getting big hits in big situations.''

Houston hadn't won six consecutive games since August 2010, and hadn't won six straight on the road since July 2005. The Astros barely hung on for the latest win in their improbable string, with Jose Veras striking out Hank Conger with two runners on in the ninth for his 11th save.

''I feel like we're playing really good baseball,'' Houston manager Bo Porter said. ''We had been playing good baseball, but now we're starting to win those crucial break points. ... I look at the talent in that room. I know the potential we have. You're starting to see we're coming together. I said it last month: We're going to hit our stride, and we're going to start winning some of those games we were losing.''

The Astros had just enough to hold off Los Angeles, which lost a game despite allowing three hits or fewer for just the fifth time in the last decade.

Joe Blanton picked up his AL-worst ninth loss for the Angels despite matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and allowing just three hits in eight outstanding innings. The Angels held a closed-door meeting for 25 minutes after their latest discouraging loss in a season full of them.

''Anything can happen in this game, so you can't take the other team for granted,'' said Albert Pujols, who went 0 for 4. ''They have a lot of players who want to prove that they belong up here. We had our pitching matchups set up, and obviously things didn't go our way.''

Barnes dived to catch Pujols' sinking drive to center with Mike Trout on base to end the eighth.

Veras then held on for his third save in the four-game series, giving up Alberto Callaspo's two-out double and walking pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton striking out pinch-hitter Conger looking.

Bedard (1-2) hadn't won in his last 11 starts dating to last season, but the veteran lefty gave up just five hits and a walk despite entering the night with a career 7.08 ERA at Angel Stadium.

Trout drove in the only run for the foundering Angels, who have lost six of eight to erase all momentum from their eight-game winning streak last month. Los Angeles slid back to eight games below .500 with four consecutive losses to the Astros, dropping its record against the rest of the AL West to 9-19.

Carter's fifth-inning homer was the Astros' first hit off Blanton (1-9), who kept mowing down the Astros in his first start with 10 strikeouts in nearly four years. Blanton still matched Philadelphia's Cole Hamels for the major league lead in losses.

''They executed when they needed to, and we didn't,'' Blanton said. ''They pitched well. Anytime somebody beats you four in a row, you've got to give them credit. It's not all a matter of you playing bad.''

Hamilton was held out of the Angels' starting lineup to give some rest to the slumping $125 million outfielder. Hamilton missed two games last week with back spasms, but the former AL MVP was 2 for 15 on the homestand, and is batting .169 against left-handers this season.

Blanton struck out six of the Astros' first nine batters. Houston's only baserunner in the first 4 2-3 innings reached on Callaspo's throwing error in the third, but Chris Iannetta picked Matt Dominguez off second base moments later.

The Angels took the lead in the third when J.B. Shuck doubled down the right-field line, advanced on Erick Aybar's single and scored on Trout's flyout.

Blanton was firmly in control until Carter's homer, striking out the first two batters he faced in the fifth to surpass his season high. But Carter lined a pitch into the bullpens beyond the left-field fence for his 12th homer of the season.

Houston went ahead in the sixth when Dominguez doubled, advanced on a bunt and scored on Barnes' fly.

NOTES: Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez returned after missing four games with a strained hamstring. ... Blanton matched his career-best 11 strikeouts on May 26, 2009, while pitching for Philadelphia against the Marlins. ... OF Peter Bourjos had a triple in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment with Single-A Inland Empire. Out since April 29 with an injured hamstring, the center fielder is expected to rejoin the Angels this week, bumping Trout back to left field.

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