Strong Nolasco a tough-luck loser

Strong Nolasco a tough-luck loser

HOUSTON -- Ricky Nolasco and Mike Fiers entered Saturday having each allowed 18 home runs this season, tied for the most in the American League. So when the veteran right-handers matched up in the second game of the Angels' series against the Astros, there was -- predictably -- a homer.

Brian McCann launched a solo shot in the second inning to help lift Houston to a 3-1 win at Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon, the lone stain in an otherwise strong outing for Nolasco. Nolasco limited the first-place Astros to two runs over seven innings, but he was tagged with the tough-luck loss after being outdueled by Fiers, who held the Angels to one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings.

"He pitched a good game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Nolasco. "Obviously his back is against the wall the whole way. He got some double-play balls to help him out of some jams, but he pitched a really strong seven innings and gave us a chance to win."

Scioscia on Nolasco's outing

In the second, Nolasco fired a 2-1 fastball down and away to McCann, but the Astros catcher hammered it out to right-center field to give his club a 1-0 lead. Nolasco has now surrendered 19 homers in 64 2/3 innings this season, surpassing Fiers for the ignominious lead in the AL.

"It was a good pitch, but you've just got to barrel it in this park," Nolasco said. "He barreled the ball up, basically. It wasn't a great swing, but at the end of the day, he's strong enough to get it out of here by just barreling up the ball, and that's what he did."

McCann's towering home run

While Nolasco has struggled to contain the long ball this season, it didn't doom him against the Astros on Saturday. He yielded one more run in the fifth on Yuli Gurriel's sacrifice fly, but he dodged trouble for the remainder of his outing. Still, Nolasco received little run support from the Angels' offense, which had produced 20 runs in its previous two games but mustered only two hits against Fiers.

The Halos were held scoreless until Andrelton Simmons delivered an RBI groundout in the eighth, cutting the Astros' lead to 2-1. Kole Calhoun then came up to bat against Astros relief ace Chris Devenski with two outs and the tying run on third, but he struck out swinging on a changeup to end the inning.

"It's baseball," Calhoun said. "Sometimes the hits are going to fall and you're going to put something together and you put up big numbers. Other times you can't get something to go your way. We didn't have a good day at the plate, and we lost a ball game by two runs. ... It's just how the game went today. Tomorrow is a new day."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.