HOUSTON — The Angels couldn't beat Bud Norris on Friday night. The way they've hit the Houston ace — he has given up one earned run in 28 innings (0.32 earned-run average) of four starts against them this season, including seven four-hit innings Friday night — their only hope was to outlast him.
“He's like a nightmare you can't shake,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He's thrown better than anyone we've faced this season.”
Angels starter Jerome Williams didn't quite match Norris, but his strong 61/3-inning, one-run, five-hit effort gave his team a chance.
The Angels took advantage, eking out two unearned runs, using speed on the bases to score twice, getting some stout relief and a spectacular catch by center fielder Mike Trout in a 4-2 victory over the Astros in Minute Maid Park.
Josh Hamilton prolonged the ninth by racing to second to beat out Peter Bourjos' fielder's-choice grounder to shortstop to load the bases, and Erick Aybar delivered a clutch two-out single to right for two huge insurance runs and a 4-1 lead.
Closer Ernesto Frieri minimized damage after giving up a walk and a double to open the bottom of the ninth, striking out Carlos Corporan, getting Matt Dominguez on a sacrifice fly and striking out Marc Krauss for his 20th save, as the Angels extended their win streak to four.
“It's huge that we were able to pull off a win with Bud Norris pitching,” said catcher Hank Conger, who sparked an eighth-inning rally with a double and threw out two runners trying to steal. “That was a win we really needed.”
The 3-hour 49-minute game was filled with good defense, much of it in center field, where Houston's Brandon Barnes sprinted to the gap to catch Conger's third-inning drive before doing a face-plant into wall and closed the inning with a diving catch of J.B. Shuck's flare to shallow center.
After Shuck, the Angels left fielder, threw out Carlos Pena trying to advance from first to third on a single in the seventh, Trout closed the inning with a quick sprint and leaping catch of Dominguez's drive to the warning track in left-center with a runner on second to preserve a 1-1 tie.
“I don't even know if I get surprised by that guy anymore,” Conger said of Trout. “He makes some unbelievable catches. In that situation, with the game on the line, it was unbelievable.”
Two errors by the Astros, who had taken the lead on Jason Castro's solo homer in the fourth, were costly. Aybar led off the sixth with a single to center, which Barnes bobbled for an error, allowing Aybar to take second. Trout's RBI single to right-center tied the score, 1-1.
Conger opened the eighth with a double to deep center off reliever Paul Clemens, and Bourjos came on to run. Aybar, after fouling off two bunt attempts, worked a walk. Shuck, after failing to bunt the runners up, flied to medium center.
Bourjos tagged from second and Aybar from first. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno cut off Barnes' throw and threw wildly to second, the ball trickling far enough away for Bourjos to sprint home for a 2-1 lead.
Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the bottom of the eighth, and Frieri held on in the ninth.
“You're going to have things you don't execute or that don't go your way in a game,” Scioscia said. “But tonight we did enough things the way we needed to that we could absorb some of it.
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