HOUSTON -- The Los Angeles Angels overcame poor situational hitting early and a controversial ruling late in the contest to salvage the final game of their three-game series with the Houston Astros, winning 6-5 Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.
First baseman Mark Trumbo delivered a game-tying, two-run double to right field off Houston right-hander Hector Ambriz (0-2) in the eighth inning, driving home Brendan Harris and Mike Trout. Three batters later, Alberto Callaspo plated Albert Pujols with a sacrifice fly to help the Angels (12-22) snap a four-game skid. The Angels had dropped nine of 11 games on the road entering their series finale with Houston (10-25).
With Houston clinging to a 5-3 lead with two runners on base and two outs in the Angels seventh inning, Astros manager Bo Porter replaced right-hander Paul Clemens with left-hander Wesley Wright. But after Wright threw several warm-up pitches, Porter reemerged from the dugout and replaced Wright with Ambriz despite Wright not having faced a batter.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was incensed. Despite appearing to rule in conflict with Rule 3.05 (b), which requires an incoming pitcher to face at least one batter unless there is an injury, the umpires allowed the pitching change to stand. Angels pinch hitter Scott Cousins flew out after Scioscia lodged an official protest of the game with crew chief Fieldin Culbreth.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri earned his fifth save by stranding two base runners in scoring position in the eighth before working a perfect ninth.
Given the Angels' multitude of base runners, it was surprising that Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell departed with a chance to notch a victory. Harrell had issues finding the strike zone throughout his laborious five-inning stint. The Astros also struggled behind him defensively, most notably sure-fielding third baseman Matt Dominguez, who committed a pair of errors after entering the night with just one over his previous 101 chances.
Yet Harrell persevered, primarily because the Angels flailed about with runners in scoring position. Harrell issued six walks, loading the bases in the second (following a Howie Kendrick single) and third with five walks during that stretch. But the Angels settled for one run on each occasion, leaving the bases juiced and keeping Harrell off the hook.
Harrell stranded 10 runners while the Angels were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as he scuffled. Josh Hamilton cranked a leadoff homer in the second, and Trumbo scored on a Callaspo sacrifice fly in the third, but the Angels lacked any semblance of clutch hitting.
The Astros weren't much better. Both Dominguez and Chris Carter were thrown out at second base attempting to stretch run-scoring singles in the second and fourth innings, respectively. Houston pushed ahead 3-2 when Ronny Cedeno scored on Brandon Barnes' infield single in the fifth, but Houston reliever Clemens surrendered a leadoff homer to shortstop Brendan Harris, an injury replacement in the fifth inning, in the sixth, ensuring that Harrell would not record a victory after all.
NOTES: Harrell matched his career high of six walks set Sept. 25, 2012, in a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. ... Hamilton has hit four home runs this season, with all four coming against Houston pitching. ... Angels shortstop Erick Aybar departed in the fifth inning due to tightness in his right hamstring. He finished 0-for-3, snapping his hitting streak at 11 games.