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Old 06-24-2015, 10:40 PM   #1
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McCullers solid but Astros loses to Angels 2-1 in extras

Three critical mistakes on the basepaths in the late innings and another frustrating outing by reliever Chad Qualls prevented the Houston Astros from separating themselves more from the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

Qualls gave up Houston native Taylor Featherston's first game-ending hit in the major leagues with two out in the 13th inning to give Los Angeles a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

"That's kind of how it's been going the past couple weeks — not too many hard-hit ," Qualls said. "I'm getting a lot of ground , but they're finding holes right now. I've just got to battle through it, and things will turn around sooner or later. It's got to."

In his last 12 appearances, Qualls has given up 15 hits in 9 1/3 innings and nine earned runs. Even though this one wasn't charged to him, the right-hander isn't too happy about his 5.11 ERA.

"Chad is a little snakebitten now," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think he's going through a period where every single thing seems to be going against him. He's been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, trying to fight through this stretch that he's been in. But he's been around the league long enough to make adjustments, and he'll keep fighting and pushing."

Erick Aybar greeted Joe Thatcher (1-2) with a leadoff single, advanced on Daniel Robertson's sacrifice and went to third on Efren Navarro's groundout. Qualls walked Chris Iannetta before Featherston poked a 1-1 slider over the right side of the infield to help the third-place Angels climb within 4 1/2 games of the Astros.

"You see it all the time on TV growing up," Featherston said of his postgame Gatorade shower. "We've had a couple this year, and I felt that sooner or later, my time would come. That's what it's all about — getting it done with the game on the line. Going into an off-day with a series win is huge."

Joe Smith, working his second inning of relief for the Angels, did not retire any of the three batters he faced in the ninth. Preston Tucker led off with a single, but pinch-runner George Springer was picked off before the next pitch. Evan Gattis tried to stretch a single to left field into a double and was thrown out by Robertson.

Another Astros pinch-runner was cut down in the 10th when Marwin Gonzalez was thrown out trying to steal second.

"They were aggressive mistakes," Hinch said.

Surprise starter Andrew Heaney pitched well in his Angels debut, locking horns with Lance McCullers in a matchup of touted young arms selected in the first round of the 2012 draft.

"Those are two really good young pitchers and they both pitched great today," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "McCullers was very effective and he had all his pitches working. Heaney was throwing a ton of strikes early. We put a lot of in play, but didn't have a lot of baserunners."

Jose Alvarez (2-1) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

McCullers allowed a run and four hits through six innings, striking out six and walking three in his eighth big league start while lowering his ERA to 2.33. He had at least one runner on base in every inning, but yielded his only run in the fourth on Iannetta's bases-loaded sacrifice fly after a leadoff walk to Albert Pujols.

Heaney also allowed a run and four hits over six innings with five strikeouts and an intentional walk in his sixth major league start.

The Astros tied it in the sixth when Jose Altuve walked with one out, stole his AL-leading 18th base and scored when rookie Carlos Correa doubled over the head of left fielder Matt Joyce on a 2-0 pitch.

"I know they're an aggressive team, so I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead in the count," Heaney said. "We'd been going with heaters the whole time, and I just threw a pitch that came back over the plate. He's a really good hitter and he barreled it up."

The 24-year-old lefty was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake after struggling right-hander Matt Shoemaker was pushed back two days in the rotation to get some extra work in. He was 0-3 with a 6.93 ERA in five starts last season with Miami.


Astros RHP Mark Appel, the top pick in the 2013 draft, was promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi to Triple-A Fresno after going 5-1 with a 4.26 ERA.


Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3) pitches Thursday night in the opener of a four-game home series against the New York Yankees. Keuchel is 3-3 with a 2.90 ERA over his last seven starts after going 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his first nine.

Angels: Shoemaker is scheduled to start on six days' rest Friday night in the opener of a three-game set at home against Seattle. He was given extra time to work on fastball command. Shoemaker has a 5.20 ERA in 13 starts after setting a franchise rookie record last season with 16 wins. In five career starts against the Mariners, he is 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA.

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