- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Brett Oberholtzer was packing his gear after a tough night against the Los Angeles Angels. Only it wasn’t for the ride back the team’s hotel.

The Houston Astros’ right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City after Thursday night’s 5-2 loss. Oberholtzer gave up five runs, nine hits and three walks over 6 1-3 innings in his third start since getting recalled from the minors on June 28.

“I’m pretty strong mentally, so I’ll just go down and continue to work and get better,” he said. “I think I got the right mindset for it.”

This was Oberholtzer’s third stint with the club already this season. He was 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in his first seven starts before back-to-back victories over Seattle and Baltimore.

“Each and every time we’ve sent him down and we’ve asked him to come back to pick us up, he’s picked us up,” manager Bo Porter said. “Tonight was no different. He picked us up again, giving us extended innings and an opportunity to be in this game. He battled. Even if you look at the fourth inning when he gave up four runs, if one of those groundballs get fielded it’s a different ballgame.”

Oberholtzer (2-7) was bailed out by inning-ending double plays in the second and third innings, after giving up Howie Kendrick’s RBI single in the first.

Mike Trout was doubled off second base in the third after rookie left fielder Enrique Hernandez made a diving catch of Albert Pujols’ sinking liner, but the Angels scored four runs in the fourth to grab a 5-2 lead. C.J. Cron tied it with an RBI single, and David Freese doubled to right-center, the fourth straight one-out hit. Freese scored on Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly.

“They put some good swings on my pitches there in the fourth,” Oberholtzer said. “I think they were looking for changeups and fastballs down and away, which is my strength. But they beat me to the punch. They came out swinging, but that’s what they’re supposed to do.’

Freese has six RBIs in his last five games, two more than he had in the previous 27 games in which he had an a-bat.

“We’ve been talking about David for a while, and we need him,” said manager Mike Scioscia, who has kept Freese in the bottom third of the batting order since June 17. “He hasn’t gotten off to a good start, and we’re at the halfway point. Hopefully he’s finding a comfort level.”

Matt Shoemaker (6-2) allowed two runs, seven hits and three walks, and worked with runners on base in every inning. The right-hander, who began the season in the Angels’ bullpen, gave up eight runs and 11 hits in four innings on Friday in a loss at Kansas City. He had been 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his seven previous starts this season.

Houston took a 2-1 lead in the third. Jose Altuve doubled after a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzalez, Jason Castro singled off the glove of first baseman Pujols to drive in the Astros’ first run, and Altuve scored on a grounder by George Springer. Shoemaker retired Matt Dominguez on a double-play grounder after a walk to Jon Singleton.

“It’s just tough, not scoring runs when you have situations with men on base early in the game where you can jump on team,” designated hitter Chris Carter said. “We’re in a little rough patch now, but I think we’ll be better the rest of the series.”

Altuve, who had three hits, leads the AL in batting (.347) and stolen bases (37). The only players who finished a season atop the league in both categories were Ty Cobb (1909, 1911 and 1917), George Sisler (1922), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1945) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).

Shoemaker had seven strikeouts, giving him 57 through his first 10 big league starts. That broke the franchise record of 56 set by Bo Belinsky in 1962.

“He has it in his game, that’s for sure,” Scioscia said. “If you look at his career in the minor leagues, he has struck out his share of guys. But you never know how a guy’s stuff is going to play in the major leagues until he gets an opportunity. Shoe definitely has some out pitches and some pitches that he can get strikeouts with.”

Jason Grilli, obtained from Pittsburgh on Friday, pitched a scoreless eighth in his home debut, and Joe Smith worked a hitless ninth for his 10th save.

NOTES: RHP Josh Fields will be reinstated from the disabled list on Friday to fill Oberholtzer’s roster spot. … The Astros are tied with Arizona for the majors’ worst record (36-51). … Houston is 0 for 44 when trailing after eight innings. … The Astros became the final team this season to draw one million spectators on the road. … Scioscia earned his 1,281st regular-season victory, tying Whitey Herzog for 34th place on baseball’s career list. Scioscia reached the mark in 57 fewer games. … It was the 44th anniversary of the first no-hitter at the “Big A,” thrown by Clyde Wright against Oakland.



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