- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The AL West has hardly been a sanctuary for the Houston Astros since they switched leagues last season.

They are 14-26 against their division rivals this year, with the youngest roster in the majors and the lowest batting average in the American League. So when the Astros went up against a pitcher on a major roll Sunday, their chances of winning diminished even more.

Garrett Richards won his sixth straight decision and struck out a career-high 11, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 6-1 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the team with baseball’s worst record.

“Right now we’re in a rut, and we have not played well. But nobody is going to feel sorry for you,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “It’s up to the men in this clubhouse. These are the guys that we have and those are the guys we’re going to run out there. It’s going to be up to us to rectify what it is we have going.”

Astros rookie George Springer struck out all four times up, increasing his AL-worst total to 105. Jon Singleton fanned three times Sunday and eight times in the series, going 1 for 15 with a home run against C.J. Wilson.

“You’re talking about young, talented players. And when it’s all said and done, George Springer and Jonathan Singleton are going to be quality players at the major league level,” Porter said. “But we’re asking them to do something at this stage of their career that they’re probably not ready for.”

Collin McHugh (4-8) gave up three runs - two earned - and four hits through four innings before leaving with a broken nail on his middle finger. The right-hander struck out four in his third start against the Angels this year, becoming the first pitcher in Astros history to have at least four strikeouts in each of his first 14 starts of a season.

“It split open in the warmups in the fourth inning. I didn’t have a blister or anything there, so I wasn’t thinking a whole lot about it,” McHugh said. “Then in the first couple of pitches of that inning it started. It didn’t fall off. It just pulled up away from the skin. We’ll just get back to taking care of it, treating it and see what happens. It’s kind of new to me, but the trainers know what they’re doing and I feel pretty confident about it.”

The Angels loaded the bases in the third when McHugh gave up singles by Hank Conger and Kole Calhoun, and hit Mike Trout on the left biceps with a first-pitch fastball. Albert Pujols stroked a two-run single to open the scoring.

Until that hit, the three-time NL MVP was 0 for 13 this season in bases-loaded situations. Trout then scored from second on a throwing error by All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who was trying to complete a double play on Josh Hamilton’s grounder to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez.

Calhoun added his ninth homer in the seventh against David Martinez, who was pitching his third inning after getting recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“It’s like nothing is going our way,” said catcher Carlos Corporan, whose throwing error to second on a stolen base by Erick Aybar led to the Angels’ final two runs against Chad Qualls. “We’re grinding until the end and trying to do our best and trying to put pitching and hitting to try to win ballgames just like we did the last month. Everybody is sticking together. Nobody is giving up, and we’re going to fight until the end.”

Richards (10-2) allowed six hits over 7 1-3 innings, including an RBI single by Corporan in the seventh. The right-hander has a 1.45 ERA in his last seven outings and has allowed no more than four hits in six of them.

“We missed some hittable fastballs in the zone. Then he has a great put-away slider,” Porter said. “Once we started expanding our strike zone, he just continued to take advantage of us expanding our zone.”

The Angels swept a four-game set at home for the first time since July 2011 against Seattle. They have won 10 straight at the “Big A” and are 21-3 there since May 17 - their best 24-game stretch at home in franchise history.

“We didn’t play well. But at the same time, the Angels played real well,” Porter said. “We didn’t help ourselves. When you look at the number of strikeouts and the way we played these last four games, they pretty much took it to us in every aspect of the game.”

NOTES: Altuve, who leads Texas’ Adrian Beltre by four percentage points in the AL batting race, got his league-leading 122nd hit and needs two more in the Astros’ next six games to break Bob Watson’s 1973 franchise record for hits before the All-Star break. … Altuve stole his 25th consecutive base in the sixth inning, the longest streak by an Astros player since 2004, when Carlos Beltran swiped 28 in a row.

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