Astros on a roll with third straight win

Joe Haakenson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Say it with me now -- the Houston Astros are hot.
For most teams, winning three in a row and four of five is nothing to hang your hat on. But for an Astros team that lost 107 games last year and is on pace to lose even more this season, it's a big deal.
Carlos Pena had three hits, Jason Castro homered and Dallas Keuchel pitched his best game of the season as the Astros beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-3 on Friday night at Angel Stadium.
Keuchel (2-2) wasn't even on the Astros' Opening Day roster, and when he first joined the club in early April, he worked out of the bullpen. But he pitched like he belonged against the Angels, giving up two runs and six hits through seven innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
The Astros had 11 hits in all, including at least one from every player in the starting lineup. They had sacrifice flies and stolen bases and played a well-rounded overall game.
"I think the guys are playing much better baseball," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We're really doing a great job of situational hitting. Those sacrifice flies we were talking about earlier in the year when we were striking out and not putting the ball in play, I think the guys are doing a much better job in situations now, attacking the situation and accomplishing the tasks at hand."
Keuchel took care of things from the mound, allowing the Angels to score twice in the second inning but nothing more.
"Dallas did a great job," Porter said. "That long (seventh) inning (when the Astros scored three runs in the top of the inning) probably did him in. Obviously, I'm glad we had the inning and scored the runs, but at the same time, I think he stiffened up a little bit and didn't have the same stuff when he went out there for the seventh. But overall he did a great job."
Tommy Hanson (2-2) was making his first start for the Angels since May 4, after taking time off to deal with family issues related to the death of his 26-year-old stepbrother. He gave up five runs (four earned) and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings but managed to retire the side in order four times. It was the other innings that cost him -- and the Angels.
"It was good, a lot of fun getting back to my normal routine and getting back out there and pitching," Hanson said. "It's baseball time. It's good to get back out there and do my job. ... Not exactly the performance I would have liked to put out there, but it's good to get that one over and with something to build on."
The Astros scored three runs off Hanson in the fourth to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. They increased their lead to 6-2 with three runs in the seventh and, in the process, knocked Hanson out of the game.
"I left some pitches up in the fourth and hung two sliders in that last (seventh) inning that got me in trouble," Hanson said. "Other than that, like I said, it's something to build on."
Ronny Cedeno tripled with one out to start the rally in the seventh, Brandon Barnes and Pena had RBI singles, and the Astros got a break when the Angels threw away a potential double-play ball on second baseman Howie Kendrick's error.
The Astros matched their longest winning streak of the season. It also was their fourth win in seven games against the Angels this year.
The Angels made things interesting once Keuchel was out of the game.
Erick Aybar homered off Paul Clemens in the eighth to cut the Astros' lead to 6-3, and Clemens walked both Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, bringing up Josh Hamilton as the potential tying run. Porter went to lefty Travis Blackley to face Hamilton, and the move paid off as Hamilton popped out to end the inning.
Jose Veras pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save.
NOTES: Angels 1B/DH Albert Pujols was not in the starting lineup for only the second time this season. He had off-season surgery on his right knee and has been battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot all season. He has started 27 games at first base and 26 as the designated hitter. ... Kendrick batted in the No. 3 spot in the lineup with Pujols getting the night off. For Kendrick, who is hitting .379 (22 for 58) in his last 16 games, it was the first time this season he has batted somewhere other than fifth or sixth. ... Hamilton was the designated hitter against the Astros, one day after being scratched because of back spasms. Manager Mike Scioscia said if needed, Hamilton could get treatment on his back between at-bats. ... Astros RHP Edgar Gonzalez was placed on the 15-day disabled list because a right shoulder strain. Gonzalez, who has not pitched in a game since May 25, is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in eight appearances this season. ... Astros RHP Josh Fields finished his rehab assignment with Class AAA Oklahoma City and was activated off the disabled list for Friday's game against the Angels. Fields, who had a strained right forearm, has pitched in only two games for the Astros this season. ... Heading into Friday, Matt Dominguez has hit eight home runs in his past 17 games, tied for second most in the majors during that span. In his first 33 games of the season before the surge, Dominguez hit no homers.

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