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Pujols' 3-run HR snaps Angels' losing streak
By Brian McTaggart and Maria Guardado
HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols' launched a three-run homer to left field in the fifth inning to cap a four-run outburst and allow the Angels to snap a six-game losing skid -- while ending the Astros' five-game winning streak -- with a 5-2 win on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
The towering home run was Pujols' second of the season and No. 593 in his career.
"You're always pleased any time you get an opportunity to help your team out to win," Pujols said. "That's my job, so I just put the best swing of the night. I'm just glad that we came out with the win."
Angels starter Ricky Nolasco picked up his first win of the season by holding the Astros to two runs on eight hits without walking a batter over six innings. He improved to 5-0 lifetime in six games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park, which is where he made his Major League debut in 2006. The only runs Nolasco allowed were solo homers by Yulieski Gurriel and George Springer in the third.
"I don't think anyone was doubting that we wouldn't get back on track, but the sooner the better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But it really starts with Ricky, even though he made some mistakes to Gurriel and Springer with his sinker. He battled and got some big outs to keep it a 2-1 game and give us a chance to come back."
Right-hander Joe Musgrove (1-1) needed 100 pitches to get through five innings for the Astros. He entered the fifth with a 2-1 lead, but he started the frame by giving up singles to Martin Maldonado and Yunel Escobar. Mike Trout drove in Maldonado to tie the game one out later with a double past a diving Springer, and then Pujols' towering homer made it 5-2.
"They did a good job of battling him and putting him in sort of difficult situations to have to pitch out of most of the night, and the big swing by Pujols," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Astro-shots: Pujols' homer not only gave the Angels a lead, but it was the 54th of his career in the regular season against the Astros -- his most against any team -- including his 29th at Minute Maid Park. It also was No. 593 of the veteran slugger's career. Including the playoffs, Pujols has 60 career homers against the Astros (31 at Minute Maid Park), including his memorable game-winner in Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series for the Cardinals, off Brad Lidge of the Astros.
Simmons slams one: The Angels, who entered the game on a 20-inning scoreless drought on offense, including being shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since 2012, stretched that to 21 innings before shortstop Andrelton Simmons socked a home run to right field with two outs in the second inning off Musgrove. The homer also snapped an 0-for-11 drought for Simmons, who finished the game 2-for-4.
"I didn't know it was that long," Simmons said of the Angels' scoreless streak. "It's good to get on the board. It felt a little weird not being able to score, especially having a lot of guys in scoring position. Getting that run, it got us going a little bit, and the offense definitely swung the bat a lot better today."
"I think that's probably as best I can hit a ball, especially to that part of the park." -- Springer, who became the first player to homer off the new batter's eye in center field with his 441-shot, according to Statcast™
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Pujols' three-run homer gives him 1,827 career RBIs, tying Al Simmons for 19th-most in Major League history.
Hinch lost a replay challenge in the fourth. Brian McCann began the inning with a single off the left-field wall and was thrown out at second trying to stretch. The call stood after the umpires reviewed it.
"I thought the super slo-mo upstairs looks like he's safe," Hinch said. "But I can only challenge; I can't rule."
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Right-hander JC Ramirez will make his second Major League start on Wednesday, as the Angels continue their four-game series with the Astros at 5:10 p.m. PT. After opening his career with 111 relief appearances, Ramirez started against the Royals on Friday. He was charged with the loss after allowing five runs over five innings.
Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will make his fourth start of the season in Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Angels. Keuchel has thrown seven innings in each of his first three starts, allowing one run or fewer each time. He leads the AL in home ERA since the start of the 2014 season at 2.35. He's 24-10 at home in 45 home starts in that span.