July 5, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) is doused by center fielder Mike Trout (27) following the 11-5 victory against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels Sweep Astros, Can’t Gain Ground in West

Record:

51-36 overall (0-1 at Kansas City, 2-1 at Chicago White Sox, 4-0 vs. Houston last week)

Highlights:

There’s a reason the Los Angeles Angels have the best home record in the majors. They swept four of the last five series’ at Angel Stadium, dating back to June 8, and have only lost once since May 25. Houston and Chicago’s stingy offenses gave Angels pitches fits all week, but late-inning heroics sealed the deal on a 6-2 stretch.

A rainout at U.S. Cellular Field last Monday led to a day-night doubleheader the following day. Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver weren’t fazed, combining for 15 2/3 innings while striking out 15. Each picked up their ninth win of the season.

Richards followed with a dominant effort against Houston. A candidate for the American League’s last vote-in roster slot, Richards went to 10-2 with a 7 1/3 inning, six-hit performance Sunday afternoon, notching a career-high 11 strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 1.45 over the last seven outings.

The highlight of the week, and possibly the year, came on Friday when Mike Trout kicked off a Fourth of July fireworks show with a display of his own. A 6-6 game entering the ninth, Trout golfed a Tony Sipp slider over the left-center field wall. He was mobbed at home plate and subsequently given a Gatorade bath.

One day later, they baffled the Astros with a eight-run eighth inning, en route to an 11-5 win. David Freese, Albert Pujols, and C.J. Cron each homered in the eight-hit, three-walk frame. It was a milestone day for Pujols, who overtook Rogers Hornsby for 30th place on the all-time doubles list.

Lowlights:

Ninth-inning miscues cost the Angels what could be an eight-game winning streak. They lost the series finale in Kansas City on a botched double play attempt in what would have been their second sweep at Kaufmann Stadium in as many years.

Royals outfielder Alex Gordon reached on a hit by pitch before Salvador Perez’s grounder wen to short. Aybar’s throw to second glanced off Howie Kendrick’s glove, moving Gordon to third for an eventual game winner. It was a rare error for Aybar, who leads AL shortstops in fielding percentage.

The rubber game in Chicago ended in similar fashion. After Freese and Josh Hamilton homered in consecutive innings, rookie right-hander Mike Morin entered trying to keep it a 2-2 contest. It didn’t take long for the south siders to strike. The White Sox tagged Morin for three consecutive one-out singles, including pinch-hitter Leury Garcia’s walk-off blooper to shallow left.

Once the rotation’s workhorse, C.J. Wilson continues to struggle. He’s reached the seventh inning twice since June 3 and only has two victories over his last seven starts. Wilson’s ERA has ballooned to 4.23, the highest it’s been since 2008.

Last Friday, Wilson allowed three home runs, the most he’s allowed in a start all season.

Player of the week:

Richards was left off the AL All-Star roster but is vying for the AL Cy Young award. He won two games last week, respectively, yielding eight hits and scattering four runs over 15 1/3 innings.

In Game 1 of a doubleheader with Chicago, Richards gave up three first-inning runs before completely dominating the White Sox offense through eight innings. Chicago only managed three base runners after the first.

Richards (10-2) completed a four-game sweep of Houston with a masterful outing Sunday afternoon. He struck out a career-high 11 batters while allowing just one run over 7 1/3 innings. He’s tied with four other for third-most in the American League.

Injury report:

David Freese was out of action the last two days due to a left shin bruise. It didn’t appear to hinder the third baseman Saturday night as he notched a pinch-hit two-run homer off Astros reliever Anthony Bass. Freese is listed as day-to-day.

Right-hander Fernando Salas pitched a scoreless seventh with Class-A Inland Empire Friday night. Two days later, he was back on the major league roster. Salas has been on the DL since June 15 with an inflamed right shoulder.

Up next:

Toronto heads to the Big A for their only appearance of the season having lost four in a row to Oakland. The Angels narrowly miss facing Mark Buehrle but take on former NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey Tuesday night. A four-game set in Arlington, Tex. follows with Wilson pitching in the series opener.

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Tags: Albert Pujols Garrett Richards Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout

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