HOUSTON — Ricky Nolasco latest solid outing snapped a lengthy losing streak for the Los Angeles Angels.
Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Nolasco pitched seven strong innings, helping Los Angeles hinder the Houston Astros’ wild-card hopes with a 2-0 victory Thursday night.
The Angels ended an 11-game skid and pushed Houston 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers for the second AL wild card.
“It’s nice to win,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “We have played some tough games. Those guys have had our number. They’re a tough team. They have played well against us, but we are going to keep playing hard.”
Pujols homered into the Crawford Boxes in left field, helping Los Angeles move to 2-11 against the Astros this season.
“Obviously, you want to take the lead right away, especially when those guys have been playing pretty well against us this year,” Pujols said. “It was one of those things that I got a good pitch to hit and got a good swing. Nolasco did a heck of a job throwing seven innings. It is not easy to pitch against those guys over there. They have a heck of a lineup.”
Nolasco (7-14) gave up five singles and struck out five.
“I was spinning the ball pretty good,” Nolasco said. “I thought I was feeling the strike zone for the most part. I was challenging with fastballs when I had to. I was pitching off some good breaking balls to keep them off balanced.”
He did not allow a baserunner past second. Nolasco had a second straight scoreless start after throwing six shutout innings Saturday against Toronto. He has had scoreless outings in three of his last five starts.
“I feel like I have been throwing the ball well all year, just putting it all together now,” Nolasco said. “I am throwing the ball well and just trying to run with it.”
JC Ramirez pitched the eighth before Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Mike Fiers (11-8) allowed two runs and four hits with a season-high nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander retired 13 straight at one point. Fiers had his second straight strong outing after throwing six scoreless innings Saturday in Seattle.
Jose Altuve had three hits for Houston, which grounded into three double plays.
Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (left forearm tightness) played catch and will throw some bullpens in the coming week. “He’s symptom free, but we are going to obviously be very conservative where his treatment is now to make sure that this doesn’t re-occur or turn into anything bigger,” Scioscia said. “Right now he feels great.”
PUJOLS MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Pujols’ two RBIs broke a tie with Frank Robinson for 20th on the career list. His 116 RBIs this season are his most since driving in 118 in 2010. The home run was Pujols’ 53rd against the Astros.
Angels: RHP Alex Meyer (1-3, 5.63) will make his fifth start of the season and fourth for the Angels on Friday. Meyer earned his first career win in his last start Sunday, tossing five shutout innings against Toronto.
Astros: RHP Doug Fister (12-12, 4.45) will make his 31st start of the season Friday, looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Fister allowed seven runs in less than four innings Sunday at Seattle.