Jose Altuve rounds the bases after hitting a home run in his first at-bat… (Pat Sullivan / Associated…)
HOUSTON — At this rate, teams will soon look at the Angels as a welcome respite on the schedule, an opponent that, like the lowly Houston Astros, they can use to fatten up their record.
There was no such feast for the Angels in Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. Hank Conger became the first catcher in Angels history to commit three errors in a game, C.J. Wilson gave up a three-run homer in a five-run third inning, and the Angels lost to the Astros, 7-6.
The Angels, despite home runs by Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo and a career-high 12 strikeouts from Wilson, have lost 10 of 13 games to fall to 11-21, matching the worst 32-game start in franchise history. They are 4-8 in one-run games.
BOX SCORE: Houston 7, Angels 6
They’ve committed an American League-high 26 errors, they have the AL’s second-worst earned-run average (4.68), and their two highly paid sluggers, Albert Pujols (.145 in 13 games) and Josh Hamilton (.135 in nine games), are in horrendous slumps.
All of which has the Angels considering extreme measures.
“Maybe we could sacrifice a live goat or chicken or get a pin-cushion out,” Wilson said. “We’re losing a lot of one-run games, but the offense is scoring enough runs. Sometimes it’s the big inning. Sometimes it’s a lot of little things.”
Sometimes it’s both.
Trumbo’s towering three-run home run to left, his seventh homer in 11 games, gave the Angels a 3-0 lead in the first, but Jose Altuve hit a solo homer for Houston in the bottom of the first, and the Angels fell apart in the third.
Brandon Barnes singled, and Conger bobbled Robbie Grossman’s bunt toward third for an error. Though it was a difficult play, “It’s one that needs to be made,” Conger said.
Grossman took third when Conger bounced a pickoff attempt to second, Jimmy Paredes hit run-scoring double, and Altuve’s infield single, a slow roller to short, scored another run to make it 3-3.
Wilson nearly escaped the first-and-third, no-out jam with two strikeouts, but Chris Carter crushed a three-run homer to left for a 6-3 Astros lead.
“C.J. pitched his way toward getting out of trouble, but in that third inning, we needed a big pitch, he made a mistake, and Carter didn’t miss it,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “It was probably the one pitch he might like to have back.”
Wilson said it was actually a ball.
“It was up and in,” the left-hander said. “The wind was blowing out, and he got enough barrel on it to muscle it over that short porch.”
Kendrick’s homer made it 6-4 in the sixth, but on a double steal in the seventh, Conger’s throw to third hit the bat of J.D. Martinez and rolled into left field, allowing Robbie Grossman to score for a 7-6 lead. Because Martinez didn’t attempt to impede the catcher, no interference was called.
That proved to be the difference after Callaspo’s two-run homer in the eighth.
“We’re not going to make this up in one series, in one game,” Scioscia said. “We need to focus on the process of building momentum from the first pitch on.”