HOUSTON -- The Los Angeles Angels rode excellent pitching throughout a 20-game stretch of exceptional play, so when pitching failed them Friday night, it represented a surprise.
The Houston Astros rode a six-run fifth inning to their fourth consecutive victory, a 9-7 win over the Angels at Minute Maid Park.
Houston (51-96), fresh off a three-game road sweep of the Seattle Mariners, improved to 10-7 against the Angels (70-77) and clinched the season series against Los Angeles. Relievers Jorge De Leon, Kevin Chapman, Josh Zeid and Josh Fields limited the Angels to one run on two hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Matt Dominguez keyed the winning rally with a fifth-inning grand slam while Jonathan Villar and Trevor Crowe each had three hits for Houston. Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer in the third as the Angels, having posted a sterling 2.98 ERA while going 15-5 since Aug. 23, scuffled on the mound.
"This is one of the most unusual nights we've had in the last three weeks," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just didn't get it done on the mound. I thought on the offensive side we did a lot of good things and had a lot of opportunities. Give those guys credit. They got a couple double-play balls to get out of some jams and minimize some damage, and on our side we couldn't do the same."
The Angels made things interesting late, stranding two runners in the seventh inning and another pair in the eighth. After Mike Trout worked a bases-loaded walk off Zeid in the latter frame, Mark Trumbo rolled into an inning-ending double play to stifle that rally. Trumbo also grounded into a double play in the seventh inning, erasing Trout, who had recorded the second of his three walks on the night.
Fields notched his fifth save with a perfect ninth inning, striking out Chris Iannetta and Kole Calhoun to cap the victory.
"We've had times throughout the course of the year where we played well in certain aspects, but I think this is the best complete baseball we've played all year, from a starting pitching standpoint, to an offensive standpoint, to hitting with men in scoring position, the bullpen coming in some tight situations and getting some crucial outs," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "So I think as the team goes, I think this is the best all-around baseball we've played."
While Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel (6-9) labored through a sporadic outing, the Astros provided just enough run support to render his struggles moot.
After Keuchel surrendered a two-out, two-run triple to straightaway center field to Trumbo in the top of the third inning, the Astros erased the Angels' 2-0 lead with a three-spot in the bottom half of the frame.
Altuve managed some two-out magic of his own, turning on a 3-1 changeup from left-hander Jason Vargas (8-7) and delivering a home run that scored L.J. Hoes and Brandon Barnes, both of whom had singled.
After Iannetta homered to lead off the Angels' two-run fourth inning, the Astros responded with their breakout fifth.
Vargas surrendered a two-run single to Crowe before hitting Brandon Laird with a pitch and handing the ball to right-hander Cory Rasmus, who inherited a bases-loaded, one-out jam. Dominguez greeted Rasmus with a first-pitch grand slam to boost the Astros' lead to 9-4.
Vargas allowed just one extra-base hit, the Altuve homer, over 4 1/3 innings. But the avalanche of seeing-eye singles proved his undoing.
"There's really not a whole lot you can do about that, especially when they're just finding their way through the infield or right in front of the outfield," Vargas said. "Obviously it's frustrating to give up that many runs and put your team in a whole like that, but at the same time you're trying to get guys to mishit balls."
The homer was the 20th for Dominguez and his second grand slam.
"That gave us a little bit of distance that we needed," Porter said.
Keuchel allowed two additional two-out runs before leaving after 5 2/3 innings, having matched his career high of nine strikeouts while surrendering 10 hits. His six earned runs allowed matched a season high.
NOTES: Angels 2B Howie Kendrick saw his first action since being activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. Kendrick missed 33 games with a hyperextended left knee. With the close of the regular season fast approaching, Kendrick avoided a rehab assignment and recorded singles in his first two at-bats Friday night. ... Astros C Jason Castro is hopeful of serving as the DH this weekend after having missed seven of 10 games since having a cyst drained from his right knee Sept. 3. Castro is mired in an 0-for-9 slump.