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Angels Jump On Astros Early

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[April 05, 2014]  HOUSTON  The Los Angeles Angels landed in the right place to claim their first victory of the 2014 season, knocking off the Houston Astros with a thunderous offensive display.

The Angels abused Astros starter Lucas Harrell and long reliever Jerome Williams to open a four-game series with an 11-5 victory at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

"It's always nice to get the first one," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, a good offensive night. The guys really attacked the ball well. We had good hand counts all night."

Right-hander Garrett Richards got more than enough support as the Angels took a 5-0 lead after three innings against Harrell.

Williams then gave up six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

"I was trying to fill up the zone," Richards said. "I tried to go for the punch when I had the opportunity to. I felt good. It's all about making pitches and executing pitches and keeping guys off balance."

Playing without leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, the Astros hardly resembled the squad that opened the season by winning two of three against the New York Yankees. Likewise, the Angels did not look anything like the team that suffered a three-game sweep against the Seattle Mariners.


Harrell (0-1) took the loss.

"I thought my stuff was good; I just didn't locate," said Harrell, who was pulled after giving up five runs and seven hits with three walks in three innings. "With a lineup like that, they have so many good hitters you can't leave the ball over the plate like that."

Richards (1-0) picked up the victory, holding the Astros to one run in five innings. The Angels went with the bullpen for the final four innings.

Josh Hamilton hit his first home run of the season and Mike Trout belted his second to lead the Angels' attack.

The Astros, who have finished with the worst record in baseball for three consecutive seasons, have now lost two in a row since opening the season with two consecutive victories over the Yankees.

Unlike the Astros' previous loss, though, they completely looked overmatched and resembled the team that lost a franchise-record 111 games in 2013.

Trout got the Angels started quickly, drilling a monstrous home run in the first inning to draw first blood against Harrell.

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The Angels jumped on Harrell again in the second for another run, loading the bases with no outs before eventually settling for a run when Harrell issued an RBI walk to Trout with two outs in the inning. The inning could have been extended, but Harrell induced an inning-ending groundout to third from Albert Pujols.

The Angels were not nearly as forgiving in the third, however. The first two batters reached base. One out later, Howie Kendrick and Chris Ianneta hit a consecutive RBI doubles and Erick Eybar lifted a sacrifice fly in a three-run inning that resulted in a 5-0 lead.

In part because he was out of minor league options, Harrell landed the fourth spot in the Astros' rotation this spring despite a 1-2 record and 7.80 ERA in the Grapefruit League. He got the benefit of the doubt because his spring ERA was skewed by nine earned runs he gave up in 1 2/3 innings on March 15 against Detroit.

Nonetheless, the Angels feasted on a night Harrell displayed the struggles that prompted the Astros to demote him to the bullpen last August. He went 6-7 with a 5.86 ERA last year, and it is no secret he will have a short leash this spring as talented prospects like Mike Foltynewicz wait in the wings.

"I just think it was a lack of fastball command," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Harrell. "And when you fall behind, you start to want to get more of the plate, and you are talking about a good-hitting ballclub, a good fastball-hitting team."

NOTES: CF Dexter Fowler, who had started his Astros tenure with multiple-hit games in each of his first three games, was out of the starting lineup because of a stomach bug on Friday. ... C Jason Castro was out of the lineup for the Astros on Friday, one night after exiting with a right foot contusion. He Is listed as day to day. ... Angels OF Mike Trout, the runner-up for the AL MVP award the last two seasons, is off to a hot start. He now has two homers in four games this season.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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