ANAHEIM, California: When the Los Angeles Angels’ Sunday series finale against Houston began, at 12:36 p.m., the Orange County sky was still gloomy, the sun not yet out.
By the time it ended, the sun had come out, lit up the field, and started its fade away. The lights were on at Angel Stadium as the Angels lost, 8-6, to the Houston Astros in 4 hours, 57 minutes, another difficult defeat to take for a club that has suffered so many this season.
Angels reliever Mike Morin tried to throw his signature changeup to pinch-hitter Carlos Correa, and Correa launched it to left field for the decisive three-run home run in the 13th inning.
“It was an opportune time for them to get him an at-bat,” Morin said. “I’ve had success against him, specifically with my changeup. I faced him last night, threw him a couple, and he didn’t put any pretty good swings on them. I’ll take that battle 10 times out of 10. It’s just unfortunate that I caught too much of the plate and he put a good swing on it.”
Angels starter Nick Tropeano did not stumble until the fifth inning, when he walked leadoff man Tyler White and hung a slider to Jake Marisnick with one out. Marisnick hit it 386 feet to left field for a two-run, go-ahead homer.
Tropeano remained in trouble throughout the inning, nearly yielding another home run to George Springer. Tony Kemp also singled and stole second, and then Tropeano let him in when Jose Altuve singled.
Come the sixth, he lost it entirely. He let each of the first three Houston hitters of the inning reach base, ending his day. Mike Scioscia brought in Cam Bedrosian, who induced a double play from the first man he faced, with one run scoring amid it.
In their half of the fifth, the Angels loaded the bases with one out for Mike Trout on a series of walks and a catcher’s interference call. Trout grounded the seventh pitch he saw from Astros starter Doug Fister up the middle, where Jose Altuve recovered it at the intersection of dirt and grass. One run scored on an infield. Next, Albert Pujols grounded into an easy double play, his eighth of 2016 and the Angels’ league-leading 50th.
And, in their half of the sixth, the Angels responded again through unusual means, Rafael Ortega reaching on an error and coming around to score on a groundout that nearly went for another double play.
They broke through for two more in the seventh. C.J. Cron blasted a double against hard-throwing Houston reliever Ken Giles and Trout walked before Pujols blooped a ball into short right field. Johnny Giavotella laid down a safety squeeze to score the go-ahead run.
But, in the eighth, Fernando Salas quickly yielded the lead, giving up a leadoff double to Evan Gattis and a run-scoring single to Luis Valbuena. From right field, Kole Calhoun threw out Valbuena trying for second and nearly threw out Gattis doing the same.
The drama continued. In the ninth, Trout worked a one-out walk, and Pujols followed by singling to right. But Giavotella battled Will Harris to nine pitches before striking out, and Rafael Ortega battled Harris to seven pitches before grounding out.
“We put ourselves in a number of good places in that ballgame,” Scioscia said. “We just couldn’t get that run in.”
In the 10th, Calhoun dropped a fly ball at the right-field wall, putting men on second and third with one out. Joe Smith intentionally walked Valbuena to set up a force play, and then struck out Tyler White. Martin Gonzalez ripped a ball down the right-field line, but Cron snared it. Play continued.
In the 11th, Calhoun ripped a fly ball to the right-field wall and raced around the bases to third base, also with one out. Pat Neshek intentionally walked Trout and Pujols, setting up the same sort of force for Giavotella. He struck out again, and Ortega popped out.
In the 12th, the Angels did nothing. Deolis Guerra threw two perfect innings to allow the outcome’s continued postponement, after Smith handled the 10th, and Salas the eighth and ninth.
Then the Astros scored their runs in the 13th, the first in the game in 90 minutes, when Correa pinch-hit with two men on and two out. Ten minutes later, the game was over, although the Angels rallied for one more run in their half of the 13th, in vain. Giavotella struck out for the third consecutive time.
“Very rarely is he not going to put the ball in play, but unfortunately he had three opportunities to do it today and he couldn’t,” Scioscia said. “That’s not like Johnny.”