Feldman, Astros spoil Richards' return to Angels

Feldman, Astros spoil Richards' return to Angels

HOUSTON -- Scott Feldman bounced back from a rough start six days earlier and the Astros did just enough offensively to sneak past the Angels, 4-3, at Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon.

With that, the Astros won their second of four series to start the season and improved to 6-6.

"I think it's a matter of time until the team starts playing like this more consistently," said Astros closer Luke Gregerson, who had his second save. "It's early in the season."

Gregerson records the save

Garrett Richards made his long-awaited return from knee surgery nearly eight months ago, but got the loss after giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks in five innings. The Angels (5-7) didn't necessarily help Richards out, though, committing a couple of errors and failing to get a hit with runners in scoring position.

Springer scores on error

The Astros took a 4-2 lead with two on and two outs in the fifth, when Angels catcher Drew Butera made an errant throw to first on Jed Lowrie's strikeout/wild pitch and third baseman David Freese couldn't record the out on Jason Castro's slow roller.

Castro's RBI infield single

Albert Pujols made it a one-run game with a solo homer in the eighth, but the Angels' offense -- tied for 23rd in the Majors in OPS -- couldn't do much else.

"We have some guys who are good hitters who aren't getting hits fall in right now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But I think the track record with some of these guys shows what they can do."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Richards erratic, gets little help: Richards seemed a little overamped and noticeably wasn't very sharp in his long-awaited return from knee surgery. The 26-year-old consistently threw his fastball in the mid-90s and featured sharp breaking pitches, but he walked four batters and left with 100 pitches and a 4-2 deficit after five innings. Three of the five hits against Richards were infield singles, with the other being a line-drive single by Jose Altuve and an ensuing two-run homer by Luis Valbuena in the third.

Richards strikes out Carter

Feldman rights the ship: Coming off a start in which he allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits in five innings, Feldman gave the Astros six solid innings, allowing six hits and two runs while not walking a batter. The only runs he allowed came on a two-run homer by C.J. Cron in the fourth inning that tied the game, but he sent down the final seven batters he faced.

"I think just getting four runs of support was huge," Feldman said. "I felt pretty bad about giving up that home run when we scored the two runs the inning before. Luckily, I limited the damage and kept them right there, and the guys came back and put two more up."

Valbuena goes opposite field again: Valbuena shot an opposite-field home run into the Crawford Boxes in the third inning to give the Astros a 2-0 lead, giving him three homers for the season. The veteran third baseman hasn't swung the bat quite as well as he did in the spring, but he's been a valuable presence.

Valbuena's two-run homer

Left stranded: Erick Aybar reached second with none out and the Angels trailing by two in the seventh, but didn't score. It was a snapshot of how the weekend went for the Angels' offense. They notched just one hit in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the three-game series. After getting shut out on the road for the first time since July 13, 2013, on Saturday, the Angels mustered their only runs on Cron and Pujols homers.

Pujols' solo home run

QUOTABLE
"This is a resilient club that loves to play. We've talked in here a lot about the first couple of weeks of being results-oriented and I think this group in here, they care about doing it the right way, they care about each other, they focus on the process and don't get too high or too low." -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch, on his team being 6-6.
 
"I feel like I can do what I want to do on a baseball field. I haven't had that feeling in eight months or so. I think it's a credit to my work this offseason, but I know that there's still work to be done, so I'm not just sitting on it. I'm still trying to improve." -- Richards, on his return from knee surgery

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pujols' eighth-inning home run was the 46th in his career against the Astros, tying Hank Aaron for most homers against the Astros. It's also his first home run at Minute Maid Park as a member of the Angels.

REPLAY REVIEW
Umpires went to replay to overturn what was initially called a two-run homer by George Springer in the seventh, which would've put the Astros ahead, 6-2. Cameras showed the ball sliced just to the right of the right-field foul pole. The play was looked at as an umpire review, which can be used to determine home runs or foul balls.

Umpires review homer, overturned

"Our information was it was as close as you can get to being fair but not," Hinch said. "Unfortunately, we need the break to go our way, but if the ball is foul, it's foul."

The Angels lost their challenge in the first inning, when umpires ruled that an initial safe call on Altuve's infield single stands.

Angels challenge safe call

WHAT'S NEXT
Angels: Matt Shoemaker takes the mound on six days' rest Monday, opposite right-hander Kendall Graveman, when the Angels return home for the opener of a four-game series against the division-rival A's. Shoemaker has started the season with back-to-back quality starts, giving up a combined six runs on 12 hits and one walk in 12 1/3 innings during wins over the Mariners and Rangers. Game time Monday is 7:05 p.m. PT on Fox Sports West. More >

Astros: The Astros venture outside of Texas for the first time this regular season when they open a nine-game West Coast road trip by playing the Mariners at 9:10 p.m. CT Monday at Safeco Field. Rookie Asher Wojciechowski makes his second career start. After beginning the year in the rotation, he was briefly sent down after throwing four innings in relief in an emergency a week ago, only to be brought back up when Brad Peacock went on the DL.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.